J Jayalalithaa, the iconic ‘Amma’ of millions, passed away late on Monday night. The news of her demise was received with disbelief as millions of supporters broke down in grief across the state. Political contemporaries poured in their condolences. Despite sharing an acrimonious past with some Opposition parties, particularly the DMK, her demise received mature responses.
DMK chief and former Tamil Nadu chief minister Kalaignar Karunanidhi – Jayalalithaa’s arch rival in politics – gave out a statement. Karunanidhi stated: “I offer deep condolences on the passing away of Jayalalithaa, wishes of lakhs of her followers will make her immortal.” Similar words were resonated by his son and DMK leader M.K. Stalin who said: “Deeply saddened by the demise of our CM Selvi Jayalalithaa. My deepest condolences to the party cadres & well wishers in this hour of grief.”
Jayalalithaa’s demise brought out a sea change in the projected stance of DMK leaders. Jayalalithaa saw the darkest periods of her political career in 1989 and 2014. Both were accompanied by targeted attacks to humiliate Amma.
In 1989, during an assembly session when Karunanidhi was presenting the state budget and Jayalalithaa was the leader of Opposition in the house, DMK leader Durai Murugan was alleged to have indulged in an act of misconduct in the house.
Jayalalithaa had called Karunanidhi a corrupt politician and that people charged with criminal cases should not be allowed to present the budget in the house. What followed was ruckus in the house including throwing of mics, chappals, papers etc. An AIADMK MLA even tore up the budget papers in the house.
After the speaker adjourned the house, Jayalalithaa was exiting the house floor. Jayalalithaa alleged that Durai Murugan, then minister in Karunanidhi’s cabinet and his colleague Veerapandi Arumugham, both close to Karunanidhi, tried to snatch and tear off her saree. Both denied the allegation later but that left a mark on Jayalalithaa. That day was marked arguably as one of the darkest days in Tamil Nadu politics No apology was issued by DMK or Karunanidhi. Durai wasn’t pulled up and the matter was swept under the carpet.
That was the day when Jayalalithaa swore to step into the assembly hall again as the CM of the state which she did on the back of a resounding victory in 1991. 1996 was another year when she was arrested in a graft case after being routed in the elections.
Jayalalithaa suffered a drop in her health condition while in prison in 2014 as well but she made her comeback as the comeback queen in her sixth stint as the state’s CM. The state couldn’t help but marvel at her fighting spirit. Maybe the legacy that Amma leaves behind is a state united in remembrance.