Rajya Sabha MP Maitreyan fondly remembers his long association with late CM Jayalalithaa.

Brave bold courageous Jayalalithaas voice in Parliament read AIADMK MPs moving speechIndia Today Conclave South Tribute
Blog Jayalalithaa Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - 13:13
Written by  V Maitreyan

It is a pride and honour for me to share with you all about my most beloved leader Puratchi Thalaivi Amma as I know her.  I had been her voice in Parliament for the past 12 years and echoed her views on various issues in Rajya Sabha.  I never ever dreamt that one day I will have to speak in her memory. 

How do I capsulate Amma?  A Chief Minister fighting for the rights of her state, a politician trying to spring back from electoral defeats, a woman standing tall in what is still a man’s world or a party supremo enforcing military discipline.  In all this Amma was exemplary.  She played a vital role in the shaping of Tamil Nadu during a crucial phase of the country’s economic development and social progress.  In as much as she was a fighter for the state’s right and for federalism she also had a national outlook.  She was a nationalist to the core. 

She exhibited her pride as a Tamilian even as an actress at a young age of 16.  In an article in a magazine she was quoted as saying “I am a Tamilian.  My mother belongs to Srirangam”. That angered the Kannadigas who believed her to be a Kannadiga.  Two months later, during a shooting of Director Panthulu’s film at the Chamundi Studios at Mysore, the Kannadigas demanded that she should say sorry for having said that she was not a Kannadiga.  Amma was neither ruffled nor afraid.  She looked straight at them and said in chaste Kannada, “I have not said anything wrong.  Why should I apologize?  I am a Tamilian and not a Kannadiga”.  That is Puratchi Thalaivi – Revolutionary Leader. 

She displayed her inherent nature of fighting for the rights of Tamil Nadu in her maiden speech in Rajya Sabha in 1984, pressing for the allocation of the entire power generated from Kalpakkam for Tamil Nadu.  She also raised in Rajya Sabha the issue of retrieval of Katchatheevu.  Subsequently, she also fought a legal battle for the retrieval of Katchatheevu in the Supreme Court which is still pending. 

Image courtesy: India Today Conclave South Tribute

Whether she was in power or not, she always thought and worked for the people.  That is why even when Amma was not in power in 2000-2001, she instructed the medical wing of the party to conduct free medical camps for the downtrodden in memory of the Late MGR.  We conducted hundreds of them for which there was an overwhelming response from the people.  I was fortunate that Amma herself inaugurated the medical camp in Mylapore in 2001 where I had contested. 

Image courtesy: India Today Conclave South Tribute

Madam’s position on terrorism is unambiguous, unwavering and clear cut.  Terrorism has to be crushed ruthlessly. That is why when the Vajpayee Government brought the POTA Bill, she wholeheartedly supported it.  After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in 2008, the then UPA government brought the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment – UAPA Bill on December 18, 2008 in the Rajya Sabha.  At that time, the AIADMK was part of the UNPA – Non-NDA, Non-UPA front with the Left parties along with us.  They had reservations on certain provisions of the bill, namely increase in the period of detention without bail. 

At 10pm on 17th December, I called madam on her mobile and explained to her the stand of the Left parties and sought to know how I should proceed.  She paused for a moment and then said, since we are now part of the Front, go along those lines, but explain our stand on terrorism.  Accordingly, I had nearly prepared my speech when I got a call again from her at 11.45 pm. She said – Maitreyan, for more than an hour, I had been thinking about it and feeling restless.  I am known for my tough stand on terrorism.  Just because we are part of an alliance, I cannot compromise on my stand on terrorism.  So, you speak strongly on our stated position and support the bill.  That is MADAM.  Once she takes a position out of conviction, she will never deviate from it, come what may.

While Amma was firm on her convictions, she was considerate of individuals and had regard and respect for them.  One example: At the height of the 2G scam in 2008-2010, when the Parliament was rocked, Madam used to guide me almost on a daily basis on what I should do in Rajya Sabha. 

One day I gave interviews to news channels in the Vijay Chowk, opposite Parliament.  I was very harsh on the then Prime Minister – Dr Manmohan Singh and strongly criticized his long spell of silence.  Then I went inside Rajya Sabha and raised the issue with the support of the Opposition parties and had the house stalled. After the House was adjourned, I went to the Central Hall of the Parliament and immediately my mobile rang and Madam was on the line.  She complemented me for effectively raising the issue and forcing the adjournment of the House.  Then she said “Maiteyan, don’t be harsh on the Prime Minister.  After all, Dr Manmohan Singh is a soft and nice gentleman.” She had a lot of respect and regard for him. The personal relationship, affection and rapport between Amma and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is too well known. Her affection and regard for a galaxy of leaders like the late President Abdul Kalam, President Pranab Mukherjee, Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu, Odisha CM  Naveen Patnaik, to name a few is legendary. 

How do you sum up Amma?  A life of sacrifice. Her inner feelings came out in one of her own interviews.

When she was asked which mythological character she liked most, she replied Bhishma.  Her explanation was: generally the youth in their prime will have the desire to enjoy all the pleasures of life.  But Bhishma was different.  His father Santhanu, after having lived his life, at the old age fell in love with a fisherwoman and wanted to remarry her.  Bhishma, a bachelor, sacrificed his life to fulfill his father’s desire and vowed never to marry in life and have progeny.  Such a sacrificial soul you can never see in any other mythology. 

Amma sacrificed her entire life for the people of Tamil Nadu.  Her motto was மக்களால் நான், மக்களுக்காக நான் – I am by the people and for the people.

No wonder the people of Tamil Nadu adored her as their MOTHER – AMMA.

Amma rode like a colossus in the political horizon of India – prima donna.  The void created by her sad demise cannot be filled by anyone.  Under the leadership of Chinnamma, we will follow the path shown by our beloved Amma.

Amma, I will always miss you, miss you forever.  So, do millions of others. 

V Maitreyan is AIADMK’s Rajya Sabha MP

(This was originally delivered as a speech at India Today Conclave South in Chennai on January 9, 2017. This speech has been edited and reproduced with permission.)