Jaya: Na bhooto na bhavishyati 

That Jayalalithaa is no more is a fact which the AIADMK and its hundreds of thousands of cadre and leaders may never be able to come to terms with, just like the huge void she leaves in the political landscape of Tamil Nadu may never get filled. Jaya was just not another powerful politician. She emerged and remained an enigmatic, unique and even mysterious phenomenon in politics.

She cannot he repeated or replicated. She is the only one of her kind in the political history of the country. I had no familiarity with Jaya. She was perhaps the only political leader of high standing in the 1980s and 1990s I did not become familiar with. At times my niece who knew her used to say she appreciated some of my articles. I met her only once, in June 2010. My friend Cho Ramaswamy, always impressed with my political strategies, was keen that I meet her.

The meeting started with a lovely cup of coffee. Then, the discussion turned to—as it was bound to—politics and elections. We discussed the strategy for the Assembly elections in the coming year. I found her clear in her thoughts, open in her talk, and candid in her views. She listed as her biggest challenges the brutal use of state power by the DMK government against her, the “cash for vote” Thirumangalam formula, the hostility of the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA at the Centre towards her and the general unfairness of the Election Commission to opposition parties.

None of my strategies to counter the challenges she mentioned seemed to impress her. Even though her closest friend was enthusiastic about my ideas, she was firm in her approach to politics as a game in which success was the only goal. She disagreed with me totally on almost every issue. My utility to her as a political strategist ended thus, but the meeting continued, to touch areas which I found more interesting and educative than politics.

The most important takeaway for me from that meeting was what she spoke about herself. She said her life was propelled by fate into two highprofile careers: acting and politics. “I became a cine actress against my wishes. My mother made me one. I became a politician again against my nature. MGR made me so,” she said. Yet she scored stunning successes as an actress. And she emerged as a mighty political leader with popularity and authority unparalleled in democratic polity anywhere. Of course, she could not do what she wanted to in her personal life.

She had no personal life at all. What did she want to be? She wanted to study. Become a scientist. Work in a laboratory. She could not realise her ordinary dreams as a young girl, but achieved extraordinary heights that she had never dreamt of nor wanted. A Jaya who wanted to remain ordinary became extraordinary by destiny. She once said, in her interview to Simi Garewal, that when young, she was shy and hated the limelight and strangers.

But she had to overcome her shyness, become familiar with strangers, and hog the limelight to achieve unbelievable fame as an actress first and unprecedented popularity as a leader later. Imagine a shy and traditional girl brought up in an orthodox Iyengar Brahmin family emerging on top of the complex cine world and transforming into the mighty—perhaps the mightiest— leader of a Dravidian party! A devout Hindu heading what was the split personality of a professed anti-Hindu movement. One could imagine the contradictions she would have had to handle and the metamorphosis she would have had to bring about in herself to become what she did not want to be—in a manner even those who wanted to be could not become.

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