news Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 05:30
Sameera Ahmed and Siddharth Mohan Nair| The News Minute| October 20, 2014| 2.00 pm IST “Wherever you go, we shall follow” Party workers may come and go, higher-rung leaders may jump ship to rival parties, however, a set of die-hard, non-political Jayalalithaa loyalists have conspicuously made their presence felt by being present wherever the leader has gone, come rain or shine.  Even as AIADMK cadre roamed the streets awaiting Jayalalithaa’s return after her 21-day sojourn in a Bangalore jail, amongst them a unique set of patrons were visible, some of who have been waiting outside her house, outside the party headquarters and even travelled everywhere she travelled over years. One such loyalist is PA Jalal, eye-catching with paint streaked all over his body, the word ‘Amma’ stamped on his chest, her release was just another occasion to show his gratitude for the leader. He has been hovering around the leader for over a decade now, he claims.  This was Jalal in April 2014, in the run up to Lok Sabha elections And we found him outside Poes Garden as Jayalalithaa returned back from jail. “I have always been around wherever she goes,” he said , a father of three children who migrated from Mumbai over a decade ago.He reminisced over the time Jayalalithaa herself summoned him after he was found waiting outside her house, hopeful of meeting her. “What is it, “ he claims she asked him.  Contact with the former Chief Minister has not come easy for Jalal, a professional tailor who hails from Vanniymbadi. “For three days I slept outside the party headquarters. The next day, I came and waited outside her house. That is when she called me,” he said.  “I told her about my daughter’s wedding and gave her the invitation card for the wedding,” he said. He then rummages his bag and out emerges a picture of him, his wife with Jayalalithaa on the day he gave her his daughter’s invitation. Fierce admiration and devotion for the leader is apparent as he says that the leader has done a lot for his family. “When my wife died, she (Jayalalithaa) gave me money.” That was not all. “For each of my three children’s weddings, she gave me me money to conduct their weddings ,” he said reminiscing.  He takes out a topi from his bag which he wears every time he hopes to meet the leader. “Amma has profound respect for Muslims,” he said. But she doesn’t publicize the help she does for her people, he claims.  However, the fact that the leader continues to, in a way, acknowledge, supporters like him, keeps people like him going. As crackers burst in the background at Poes Garden after Jayalalithaa returned home, he said, “Even today she saw me and smiled. That much is enough for me.”“I am a tailor. I don’t make much money,” he said. Unabashedly, he admits to hanging around in the leader’s presence in the hope of some remuneration. “I get a lot of money this way”, he says. Even other leaders like current Chief Minister O Panneerselvam have given him money, time and again, he said.  On the bail and possible question of Jayalalithaa’s future, he said, “ No harm will come to her. She can’t be touched.” He is not alone, others have travelled thousands of kilometers to be present for Jayalalithaa’s return. “I have come from Cuddalore, he has come from Ulundurpet,” said a woman excitedly.  As a woman yelled, her voice hoarse after continuous chants nearing Jayalalithaa's return, their “Amma is back. Everything will be fine now.”

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