As an active journalistic for almost two decades in Chennai, I have fresh memories of the events that have taken place under the Tamil Nadu Chief Minster and AIADMK General Secretary, J. Jayalalitha who passed away on December 6, 216.
There are three broad legacies of Jayalaitha for which she will be remembered for the times to come in this state. I) able administrator, 2) complete control over the party structure and 3) someone who had deep connection with the downtrodden people of the state.
Actually it’s her third quality that has transformed the actress turned politician into Amma or mother, the name given to her by the people of this state.
Jayalalitha was an able administrator who had a firm grip over the apparatus of administration of Tamil Nadu. It was from the lower bureaucracy to top level officers in the hierarchy, all remained under her thumb for obvious reasons to gain favors.
In the course of governance, she made it clear that the government officials who toed her party lines and agreed to her line of thought will be rewarded with promotions and plum postings.
This lure totally griped the lower and higher officials towards the AIADMK party and they showed partisanship approach while discharging their duties.
The outcome of such regimentation of the officials was it resulted in the smooth implementations of the schemes launched by the Chief Minister and its benefits instantly reached the targeted audience.
Jayalalitha’s second accomplishment was total control over the rank and file of the AIADMK party. She was the tallest among all in the party and was equated with coconut tree, beneath which the all the party functionary enjoyed the shade.
Jayalaltha build her aura as General Secretary of AIADMK and when she met the party functionary, all stood before her with folded hands. They all wore ring of her image and some even kept her photo in their shirt’s pocket.
She commanded over the party functionary was absolute and no one could dare to disagree with her as she had created examples for dissents. This is something remarkable because, she can do what ever she wanted to do but then in process left behind a big vacuum as no one can fill her place after she is gone.
The third broad point was her populists’ schemes that transformed the actor turned politician into iconic ‘Amma’ or mother and for which she will be remembered for long time to come. These schemes help us to understand why Jayalalitha is being hailed as ‘Amma’ by the masses of Tamil Nadu.
Here is a bird’s eye view of all those schemes initiated by Jayalalitha. Her rural schemes were ‘Special Amma camps’ where government officials visited villages and solve the grievances of the public at their doorstep.
Then there was ‘Amma Service Centre’ that gave birth and death certificates, trade licenses, ration cards to the people. The ‘Amma Mobile Phone’ scheme gave free mobile phones to 20,000 Self Help Group trainers mostly women.
‘Amma Cement’ sold cement for as little as Rs. 190 a bag of 50 kg. ‘Farm fresh vegetable shops’ scheme had subsidized vegetables for the people who suffered due to frequent price increases of vegetables.
‘Free Mixie, Grinder & Fan scheme gave these items free of cost to the poor. Under ‘Amma Theatre scheme’ U-certified Tamil films were screened for Rs. 10 per ticket, through out the state.
There were some Chennai centric schemes like Chennai Small Bus scheme, Fish Stall in Chennai, Internet for every household scheme and Amma water scheme.
‘Amma Call Centre’ was people’s security scheme to lodge complaints. ‘Amma micro loans scheme’ was to facilitate very small traders and ‘Amma Seeds’ scheme was to help the farmers.
Her food security schemes were ‘Amma Canteens‘that sold subsidized food and ‘Free 20 Kg rice scheme’ given to BPL families and also Amma salt scheme that suppled iodized salt to the poor. Then there were new born schemes like the ‘Cradle baby scheme’ and ‘Amma baby care kits’ scheme.
Her health care schemes included ‘Amma Master Health Check-up’, ‘Amma Pharmacies’, Amma Medi-claim. Then there were marriage schemes; like 'Amma Marriage Halls', ‘Gold for marriage’ scheme and ‘Mangalsutra scheme’.
There is also ‘Transgender scheme’ that gave monthly pension to such people to make their life easy.
There is a long list of schemes for the students; free text books, free bicycles, free uniforms, free bus pass, cash prize for top rankers, free Laptops, scheme to prevent school dropouts and financial assistance scheme to those lacking parental support.
All these schemes made a special connect with the people of Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha. These schemes undoubtedly transformed her into an iconic status with brand name Amma (mother) who is worthy of worshiped because she has been a harbinger to provide tangible benefits to the people of the state.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister by effectively implementing her popular schemes has shown the path how country can be developed by developing the people first.
With her demise Jayalalitha has left behind a legacy for the entire country that the panacea of the development of India lies in the development of the ordinary people. She has shown the pathway how such interventionist method can help develop the ordinary people of any state.
Some may argue that her populists’ schemes have short term benefits and in the long run could be harmful because funds that should have been utilized for development and growth of the state were diverted to the people’s development.
Jayalalithaa had silenced her critiques by showing that she been able to sustain the economic growth of the state and has brought it among the top five developed state in the country. This happened side by side when the state bore the economic burden of her populists’ schemes.
There is no doubt that her schemes have cost the state exchequer a lot but at the same time have benefited crores of people, especially the women, students and most the marginalized section of the society.
The large turnout of the people at Jayalalitha’s funeral was not alone those very populist schemes and freebies that she doled out to the people but it also reflects her popularity, charisma vis-à-vis the people who came out to pay their obeisance to the departed leader.
It can be concluded by saying that there will be no one like Jayalaitha for the times to come and for sure she will be an integral part of Tamil Nadu’s folklore.
The current generation will have many stories to tell the future generation about Jayalitha’s laurels and they will be passed on from heart to hearts remembering her for being able administrator towering political leader who cared for the poor and the needy.
[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]