Hailed as Amma (mother) and Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader) by her followers, J.Jayalalitha who ruled the Tamil Cinema in 1960s and 1970s and subsequently went on to become a five-time Chief Minister of the state took the party to the zenith of success under her towering leadership. The tinsel town star who has worked with the likes of MG Ramachandran, and other actors was quick to step into her mentor’s shoes after his demise. Chaperoning the party into several sweeping victories despite internal anarchy and setbacks, Jayalalithaa is known for her phenomenal revival.
Set up as a breakaway faction of the DMK, by the Tamil Icon MG Ramachandran, who converted his immense popularity into political success, Jayalalithaa joined AIAMDK in 1982 was quick to rise to prominence. She was made the propaganda secretary of AIAMDK was also elected as the Rajya Sabha Member. She fiercely led the campaign for 1984 Assembly polls winning 134 seats and retaining power in Tamil Nadu. Following the death of her mentor MGR, she efficiently ran the party under her tutelage. Tension loomed and a scuffle arose between Jayalalithaa and MGR’S widow Janaki splitting the party into two rival factions which came to be known as AIADMK (J) and AIADMK (Ja) after Jayalalithaa and Janaki. The succession crisis cost them the 1989 Assembly Election following which Jayalalithaa took upon herself to unify the two factions under her leadership.
The year 1988 marked the beginning of the ‘Jayalalithaa Era’ when the party swept the 1991 Assembly Elections establishing her dominance. While in office, she was accused of adulatory politics, restricting important portfolios to her close aides. She is also credited for introducing some out of the box schemes like the ‘cradle baby scheme’ to curb the practice of female infanticide and the abortion of female foetuses. Her government was the first to introduce police stations operated solely by women. She was also instrumental in introducing 30% quota for women in all police jobs and established as many as 57 all-women police stations along with libraries, stores, banks and co-operative elections and also a host of amma brand products like canteens and subsidised water and cement.
Twice she was convicted in different cases owing to which she had to leave office but was quick to bounce back. Her image was marred by several corruption allegations against her and her council of ministers. On another occasion she was barred from standing in 2001 elections as a candidate due to criminal offences against her under the infamous TANSI case. Despite such road blocks she successfully won the 2001 assembly elections proving her mettle and leadership.
Following her death and due to lack of effective tutelage the party again broke into two factions; O. Panneerselvam's faction known as AIADMK (PURATCHI THALAIVI AMMA), while Edappadi K. Palaniswami's faction known as AIADMK (AMMA). Though the two factions merged shortly after, lack of leadership has led the party into a state of impasse where self-claimed the General Secretary of AIADMK, V.K. Sasikala has filed a review petition from her side on Supreme Court of India. Ambiguity as to who will take over the reigns of the party cost them the 2019 Lok Sabha Polls where they secured only one out of the twenty seats they contested for. Given such conditions and the party’s performance, it’s evident that the loss of a leader like Jayalalithaa has cost the party a great deal.
By: Tuheena Jha