Not Much of a Democrat but Amma Made a Mark
Tehelka|December 31, 2016

Jaya was narcissistic and neck-deep in graft. However, she had many qualities that made her a shrewd politician and good mass leader. Women could learn a lesson or two from her on leadership.

She stormed into politics with a speech on Pennin Perumai (The Greatness of a Woman) in a state that didn’t take its women seriously. She made inroads first into a male-dominated film industry and then into patriarchal politics and emerged dominant in both. Unfortunately, circumstances don’t let too many women fight against all odds and turn the tables on those who don’t take them seriously because, well, they are women. Jayaram Jayalalithaa was one such feisty woman who defied circumstances and turned the tide in her favour, emerging as the Amma or Mother of all.

The demise of the former Tamil Nadu chief minister has been a loss not only to her political party AIADMK or the state’s politics but to the polity of the whole country. She was not just one of the few women politicians India has had but was an above-average political leader, irrespective of gender, among the mostly over-rated politicians lurking around in the country. Her death has also left a void for millions of women who, at the receiving end in various aspects of life simply because of their gender, have lost an icon to look up to.

An autocratic and controversial politician, it can be said that Jayalalithaa was not a perfect leader for a democracy. She enjoyed sycophancy and the larger-than-life cult status that she built for herself. Having instilled a fear-reverence psychosis in her party members, she could be seen smirking as party leaders prostrated in front of her to show their respect. She never objected when her followers held extravagantrituals and prayers, shaved their heads or committed suicide whenever the law was strict with her. She was flattered when fans made her portraits with their blood. She seemed to have been enjoying the circus that was held solely to please her.

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