Jayalalithaa present at GC meet in spirit, as a portrait on an empty chair

Jayalalithaa’s chair and her framed photograph was placed at the centre of the stage.
Jayalalithaa present at GC meet in spirit, as a portrait on an empty chair
Jayalalithaa present at GC meet in spirit, as a portrait on an empty chair
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The AIADMK General Council and Executive Committee meeting got underway in Chennai on Thursday for the first time following the death of party supremo and former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. And although the air was tense with anticipation, their beloved Amma’s ‘presence’ was felt by members of the AIADMK through the course of the meeting.

As a symbol of her overarching influence on the AIADMK, Jayalalithaa's chair together was placed at the centre of the stage, where the Executive Committee members were seated.  On the wooden chair, a framed and garlanded photograph of Jayalalithaa was mounted on the chair.

Jayalalithaa’s chair was, in fact, brought to the meeting in a separate car.

The meeting commenced with Executive Committee members sitting next to the chair. Loaded with symbolism from the past, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was seated beside the empty chair of his predecessor.

In 2001, OPS refused to sit in the Chief Minister’s chair after Jayalalithaa was disqualified following her conviction in the TANSI case.  The trusted lieutenant’s loyalty and obeisance continued in his second stint as Chief Minister in 2014 following Jayalalithaa’s conviction in the DA case.

Even when OPS presided over the party’s cabinet meeting in October, during Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation, her chair was left empty. In her absence, Jayalalithaa’s photograph was placed on the table, overseeing government and party proceedings. And this ‘tradition’ has continued following her death in December with Jayalalithaa watching over the Tamil Nadu government.

Incidentally, when Jayalalithaa visited the national capital for the first time after her second consecutive win in the Tamil Nadu elections in June, her chair came along with her. She then met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and submitted a memorandum for the instalment of a Cauvery Management Board and a water regulation committee.  

The chair is believed to be made out of teak and was specially designed for Jayalalithaa who suffered from arthritis and back pain. And it went with her everywhere - from Vigyan Bhavan to the Parliament library and even the Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

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