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She has left a void in Indian politics

By Tarun Vijay
December 06, 2016 09:10 IST

'Her elevation in public life signified the end of parochial extremism and hate on a casteist basis.'

Members of the AIADMK women's wing eat food from the floor as a prayer for the speedy recovery of party supremo and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at a temple in Chennai. Photograph: PTI Photo

IMAGE: Members of the AIADMK women's wing eat food from the floor as a prayer for the speedy recovery of party supremo and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at a temple in Chennai. Photograph: PTI Photo

I first met Dr J Jayalalithaaji when she attended Narendrabhai Modi's swearing-in ceremony at the Sardar Patel stadium, Ahmedabad, on December 26, 2012.

She was joy and happiness personified and her greetings to Narendra Modi said that loud and clear. It was such a grand occasion that I wrote later: 'If you were not here, where were you?'

Amma made a difference to that celebration of historic importance.

Narendrabhai Modi never missed a chance to greet her, on her elevation to the chief minister's post or on her acquittal from the high court.

She was an icon of public life in Tamil Nadu for more than three decades. Her elevation in public life signified the end of parochial extremism and hate on a casteist basis.

She was the first to grant pensions to the priests; her home was named Veda Nilayam; she sported a bindi, a sign of an orthodox Hindu believer, and she remained a very faithful Hindu till she breathed her last.

In the interview she granted Simi Garewal -- her best interview in my opinion -- she appeared an affectionate, humane, adorable person.

She hummed Hindi songs like Aja Sanam Madhur Chandni Mein Hum and told us about her liking for Shammi Kapoor and his film, Junglee.

When I started a campaign to spread the message of the great Tamil seer-philosopher poet Thiruvalluvar in North India, she was all help. We decided to install a Thiruvalluvar statue at Hardwar, near the banks of the Ganga, a first in many centuries.

The land belonged to the Uttar Pradesh government's irrigation department though Hardwar is in Uttarakhand. I wrote to her, seeking her help to persuade Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav to grant official permission.

We were a bit sceptical, but a few days later, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Mr Thambi Durai sent me the letter written to Mulayam Singh, and it was signed by each and every AIADMK MP!!

That was Puratchi Thalaivai Amma's magic.

When we started the Thiruvalluvar Ganga Payanam from Kanyakumari and were to reach Chennai where the then governor Mr K Rosaiah was to receive it, we requested Amma to participate in the event.

She was not well, but she immediately responded and sent two cabinet ministers to join the Payanam at the Marina Beach in Chennai and honour me on her behalf. Almost all party leaders, scholars and poets participated in the ceremony, an unforgettable and unprecedented event in Tamil Nadu.

We reached Hardwar, but the installation was disrupted because of some pandits and sadhus. After two honourable governors, Mr Ram Naik of UP and Mr Shanmuganathan of Meghalaya, inaugurated the statue in Hardwar, after we left, the local administration hastily wrapped the statue and kept it in a government office disrespectfully.

We were in tears and approached the state government, but finally it was Amma's request to the prime minister and her timely intervention that the state apparatus woke up and finally had the statue installed in a garden space near the Ganga.

Her contribution to the spread of Thiruvalluvar's message in North India is immense and has become a matter of folklore.

When she she fell ill, we organised special prayers. I took the Kedarnath prasadam and Manasarovar jal (holy water from Lake Mansarovar in Tibet) for her to the Apollo Hospital which was duly received by Mr Thambi Durai.

I was in the hospital for about 40 minutes. Mr Thambi Durai took me to the room where she was convalescing. The doctors told me she would be back home in a matter of days.

Today when her mortal remains have been brought home, I am unable to understand the mysteries of life.

She was irreplaceable in Tamil Nadu politics. One could have opposed her on any count, but the fact is she commanded love and respect from the common people, the poor, and especially the womenfolk, which none has ever been able to get.

Her departure has left a void which will be difficult to fill in the future.

Suddenly there is a void in Indian politics.

May her soul rest in peace.

Tarun Vijay, President, Students and Youth for Thiruvalluvar, Tamil Nadu, is a former member of the Rajya Sabha.

Tarun Vijay
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