After suffering successive defeats in elections since 2004, AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa has made a spectacular comeback in Tamil Nadu by shedding her rigid attitude and cobbling up a formidable alliance with once-not-so friendly actor Vijayakant and the Left parties.
Affectionately called 'Amma', the 63-year-old former Chief Minister was very particular this time in not letting the anti-DMK votes get split and went out of her way to make room for allies. She proved her mettle once again by roping in smaller parties and caste-based outfits.
AIADMK was not at best of terms with Vijayakant, whose DMDK was widely seen as splitting the anti-DMK votes in the 2006 Assembly and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, till recently but the former Chief Minister reached out to the actor-politician and made him join her alliance to ensure DMK's ouster. She will now become Chief Minister for the third time.
Jayalalithaa, a leading film actress before joining politics, took a lead in stitching the alliances and announcing party candidates when the DMK-led front was still grappling with seat-sharing talks with its ally Congress.
However, the AIADMK's chief's plan of launching her campaign early ran into a rough weather after her allies virtually threatened to pull out of the combine due to differences in constituencies alloted to them. Later, she hit the road from Srirangam, her ancestral town from where she romped home today.
And when the DMK announced freebies like mixer and grinder, she also joined the populist bandwagon and announced a slew of freebies, which neutralised the DMK's calculation of winning people's hearts by the manifesto.
Jayalalithaa, criticised for not sharing platform with her allies, proved them wrong this elections when she jointly addressed a huge public rally in Coimbatore with a battery of national and state leaders like CPI-M's Prakash Karat, CPI's Raja and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu. However, Vijayakant did not attend the rally, but sent his representative.
In a departure from her usual mode of campaigning, the AIADMK chief this time came out of her campaign vehicle and garnered votes for her alliance candidates. Usually, she sits inside the vehicle and addresses the public.
Also, the AIADMK reached out to the people by picking up issues like power cuts and alleged rowdyism at local level to strike a chord among the public. And it worked too as it is evident from the results.
Known for taking hard and tough decisions either in government or in party affairs, Jayalalithaa is described as "iron lady" and "Margaret Thatcher of Tamil Nadu" by her followers.
Brought to public life by her mentor and AIADMK founder late M G Ramachandran to help her overcome the loss of her mother Sandhya, Jayalalithaa was first appointed a member of the nutritious noon meal scheme monitoring committee in 1982.
She was chosen Rajya Sabha member as the AIADMK's representative the same year after which she never looked back.