Jayalalithaa’s niece has decided to take the plunge, and speaks to The New Minute about her political future.

I am getting into politics Deepa Jayakumar and the movement mushrooming around her
news Politics Monday, January 09, 2017 - 08:16

It was a crowd of not more than a few hundred people, mostly grass-root level AIADMK workers from across Tamil Nadu, gathered around ‘Sandhya Illam’ in Chennai’s T Nagar. The anger against Sasikala was more than just palpable, with people openly blaming her for Jayalalithaa’s death, questioning her credentials and even abusing her. Their only hope was Deepa Jayakumar, Jayalalithaa’s niece.

The sycophancy for Deepa was already brewing. Behind the tall gates of ‘Sandhya Illam’, she was surrounded by family, friends and supporters. Outside, party workers were gathering, shouting slogans in support of their new leader – “Deepa Amma”. They called her the “Ilaya Puratchi Thalaivi” (young revolutionary leader) and the future CM of Tamil Nadu. Huge banners were put up, morphing images of Jayalalithaa with Deepa’s face. Laminated pocket-sized cards and visiting cards with her face on them were doing the rounds.

Most of the people gathered are here of their own volition. Among them is Bhaskaran from Pulianthope, an AIADMK worker with a physical disability. “Sasikala only looted. Blood is blood, so I support Deepa,” he says. There were others, like a group of 25 women from Ambur - all AIADMK workers. They had pitched in money to hire a van to visit Jayalalithaa's Samaadhi, and are now visiting Deepa.

Bhaskaran, one of Deepa's supporters and an AIADMK worker

People had gathered by 4pm, and by 5pm they were getting restless. And then, she stepped out into her balcony on the first floor. The crowd erupted into squeals of joy and slogans of support.

She walks up and down the balcony in a rehearsed manner, waves at the people. She has an unhurried gait, and an unassertive demeanour. As she walks, her husband – Madhavan - struts along. She holds her hands together to welcome the crowd, and then waves at them with the victory sign on her fingers. Her husband also holds his hands together and smiles at the crowd.

Deepa then takes a microphone to address the people, and starts by thanking them for coming there. She speaks slowly, one sentence at a time, measuring each word. Every time the crowd erupts in applause, she would wait for them to stop and then continue speaking. Her husband spoke into her ears in between, perhaps suggesting what she should be saying or reminding her of something.

“We are working towards what you want, we have decided to take the journey with you,” she announces, and adds, “We will start on a journey together for a better Tamil Nadu.” This was the hint the people were waiting for, that she will take the plunge into politics.

Evoking MGR’s legacy, she says that she will take the people’s opinion, and with their inputs, she will announce her plans on January 17, MGR’s birthday.

Later, in conversation with a few reporters, she lays it out clearly. I ask her for a categorical answer on whether she has decided to take the plunge into politics, and she says, “I have decided to get into politics by the will of the people”.

She says she always had the intention to join politics, and now that the people wish her to join, she is taking the step. “I have never talked too much about myself, never said ‘I know this’ and ‘I know that’. Whether I am fit to be in politics or not, the people have to decide,” she says.

So, what kind of politics does she have in mind? “I represent new generation politics, we definitely need a change. We need politics which will address the concerns of the present society and pave the way for a better future.”

What is her roadmap, what is her goal? “I have thought about these things, but to come to a conclusion, I need a brief analysis of things. After doing that, I will talk about my plan.” There are plans for her to go on a tour across Tamil Nadu.

“My principal aim now is to work with the cadre who are supporting me and to listen to the people. Based on that I will take a call,” she says.

Who is backing her? Does she have any allies? “People themselves are my allies. I have not been soliciting any support. I have only been talking to people, to hear what they say.”

All day outside her house, there are the men in black, securing the house from any external threat. These are young men from the ‘Nila Puratchi Padai’, a local youth group which has joined forces with her recently. Their leader Vanniarasan says that they are here to help her take the legacy of Amma forward and fight against Sasikala. “We are trying to get her support from all the districts, get her support from lawyers too,” he says.

Vanniarasan with his Nila Puratchi Padai

AIADMK councillor L Shankar from Thousand Lights in Chennai, a supporter of Deepa

But she might not be able to work with just those who are approaching her now.

Is she open to working with AIADMK leaders if they oppose Sasikala and want to join forces with her? “I would not like to answer such speculative questions. I would talk about it if someone approaches me.”

She has been repeatedly asked if she is getting into politics now so she can get her hands on Jayalalithaa’s property. She denies it vehemently, “If I had any intentions like that, I could have done that long back. I don’t have to do all this now for money or property. They don’t have anything against me, so they are spreading rumours against me.”

Deepa is no mood to talk about the Sasikala family. Asked if they conspired to keep her away from Jayalalithaa over the years, she says, “I would like to refrain from the topic. I don’t think this is the right time.” She says that since she was “kept away”, she doesn’t wish to speak about them, but that there will be a time for that.

But beyond all the politics, it is an emotional moment for her. Asked how she feels now, she says, “I am extremely… it is an extremely emotional situation. Because this is not what I was expecting. This is very new. I hope I will be able to give back, fulfill the people’s wishes.” 

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