Actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha doesn’t get impressed easily. But late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, was a woman the 70-year-old admired deeply. Saddened by Amma’s death (at 68) on Monday, he remembers her, saying: “She conducted herself through the male-dominated world of Indian politics with such grace and dignity. And that hint of a smile which never surrendered into a full laughter….it was symbolic of her restrained conduct in politics. She was truly the Iron Lady of Indian politics….that’s what they called Margaret Thatcher.That’s what Jayalalithaaji was…Tamil Nadu’s beloved Amma.”
Sinha implores Tamil Nadu to stay calm. “I know what her loss means to Tamil Nadu. I’ve seen the mass adulation that she commanded. The people there literally worship her. She was the messiah of the downtrodden. She was charming and polite, clear in her thoughts and very, very helpful. I request the people of Tamil Nadu to mourn her going peacefully. She would never have wanted her supporters to get restless and violent. She was far too dignified to endorse rowdy behavior,” he says.
Recalling an incident when he was the Minister of Health & Family Welfare, he shares: “I needed the assistance of an IPS officer whom I knew personally, from the Tamil Nadu cadre. I was finding it difficult to get him transferred out of Tamil Nadu. I approached Jayalalithaji, and was bowled over by the sweet soft-spoken way she talked to me. I told her I had called not as a minister but as a fellow-actor who respected her for all the work she had done in films. She patiently and politely heard out my compliments and then heard what the problem was. ‘Don’t worry, Mr Sinha. There will be no problem. The gentleman you wish to work with will be sent to you.’ The work was done almost instantly. No time wasted. That was a lesson to me. In Indian politics, there’s too much time wasted. I remember when I had approached her for this favour, her team chased me down to wherever I was to ensure I was accessible and ready for conversation at the appointed time. That’s the kind of team that leaders need to achieve their goals. And everyone’s beloved Amma had achieved greatness at a very early age. I’d say she deserved every bit of the adulation and idolisation that she got. Women like Jayalalithaji are born once in a while. I think she was an inspiration to every Indian , every Indian woman and every Indian politician.”