For all her political success, it’s time to admit Jayalalithaa was no Amma

Jayalalithaa, accused by the Supreme Court of being a mastermind who misused her public office to amass wealth, should be remembered for whatever her worth: She was a politician par excellence, but she was not someone who can lay claim to sainthood

opinion Updated: Feb 17, 2017 13:20 IST
Ruben Banerjee
Ruben Banerjee
Hindustan Times. New Delhi
Jayalalithaa,Sasikala,Tamil Nadu
Supporters of the late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa pay tribute a day after her death in December last year.(AFP file photo)

Remember, Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy, the controversial play on the life of the killer of Mahatma Gandhi? Whenever the play has been staged, it has been greeted by howls of protests from those against the attempted glorification of a convicted assassin.

Similar disapproval greeted an event sought to be staged by JNU students last year in Delhi on the hanging of convicted terrorist Afzal Guru. Whether Guru deserved to be hanged for an act which many believe he did not commit is beside the point. What is relevant is that the nation is overwhelmingly against portraying in favourable light persons proven guilty according to law.

But strangely, no such qualm is being felt in Tamil Nadu, where leaders of the ruling AIADMK party are continuing to prostrate themselves at the burial site of their deceased leader J Jayalalithaa and glorify her.

AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala at J Jayalalithaa's memorial in Chennai last week. (Ht file photo)

The former chief minister’s final resting place is a compulsory port of call for genuflecting AIADMK leaders. Interim chief minister O Pannerselvam raised a banner of revolt, but only after meditating publicly at her memorial for invoking her blessings. VK Sasikala sought to quell the rebellion and as to be expected, she paid several public visits to the memorial. Even before heading to jail for the next four years, Sasikala made one more visit to the site.

But who are they paying homage to and for what?

Mothers are supposed to be pristine and also embodiment of virtues. This Amma, as Jayalalithaa is popularly known, however, abused our trust and siphoned off money to enrich herself. The Supreme Court was scathing in its ruling: It accused Jayalalithaa as a mastermind who misused her public office, who “masked banking exchanges”, who acquired “vast tracts of land” for pittances and conspired with her co-accused at Poes Garden only to later “feign ignorance” about any crime committed.

To sum up, her sins outstripped her political achievements.

Now that the facts are known and the country’s top court has ruled, Tamil Nadu leaders should stop assailing our sensibilities by putting a stop to their sycophancy. Their glorification of a tainted leader sets a wrong precedent: Tomorrow, we might start eulogising the notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, or the Tamil Tiger chief V Prabhakaran.

It is also for residents of Tamil Nadu to set aside their political loyalties and set the record straight. Their pride was supposedly hurt when the traditional sport of Jallikattu was banned. They took to the streets and got the government to reverse the ban.

It is time their pride pricked their conscience and prodded them to act again. Deifying a convicted a leader is a matter of shame. Jayalalithaa should be remembered for whatever her worth: She was a politician par excellence, but she was not someone who can lay claim to sainthood.

First Published: Feb 17, 2017 11:29 IST