Fighting heavy odds, J Jayalalithaa proved her detractors wrong again with her grit and determination as she steered AIADMK to power for a second consecutive term, bucking the tradition since 1989 when no party has retained power in Tamil Nadu.
The 68-year-old AIADMK supremo, known as ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ (Revolutionary Leader), has cemented her image as a fighter despite challenges that haunted her in the form of corruption cases forcing her to quit twice, only to make a comeback.
Though she had MG Ramachandran (MGR) as her mentor, she struggled in her initial days in the party and went on to became its general secretary, a post she has held since 1989. She vowed in 1989 not to return to Assembly unless she is the Chief Minister and is now preparing to be sworn-in for the sixth time.
The opposition’s attempt to target her as being “inaccessible” and “authoritarian” have failed to dent the image of Jayalathiaa who started a multitude of welfare schemes like the Amma canteen- a low cost food chain, Amma water and Amma pharmacies.
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Her present regime is also noted for freebies like twenty kilograms of free rice for ration card holders, free mixers, grinders, milch cows, goats and “Thalikku Thangam”, four grams of gold for Mangalsutra which she has promised to increase to eight grams if she is voted back to power. She also promised free mobile phones for all ration card holders this time.
However, her handling of flood situation came in for criticism with DMK alleging that “Jayalalithaa did not even meet the flood victims and console them” and raking up issues like alleged “insistence of AIADMK partymen to paste her sticker in relief materials.”
But Jayalalithaa, who returned as chief minister a year ago after acquittal in disproportionate assets case, emerged unscathed again with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which had won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014, continuing to hold sway in the Assembly election.
Her victory is extraordinary given the political history of Tamil Nadu that bets often on the “Dravidian” theory, and regales in anti-Brahmin rhetoric. Known for her bold decision making, she famously remarked after assuming office as Chief Minister for the second time that “I am a ringmaster” making things work by motivating government officials.