Mass grief as In­dia po­lit­i­cal star Jay­alalithaa buried

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The party of Jay­alalithaa Ja­yaram, a pow­er­ful In­dian politi­cian who died on Mon­day, ap­pointed a loy­al­ist to lead her south­ern state and keep her sup­port­ers to­gether as thou­sands of them grieved in the streets. Jay­alalithaa, the five­time chief min­is­ter of Tamil Nadu state, ran her AIADMK party with an iron hand and ap­pointed no sec­ond line of lead­er­ship or suc­ces­sor. An hour af­ter her party an­nounced her death late on Mon­day af­ter a car­diac ar­rest, state Fi­nance Min­is­ter OP. Pan­neer­sel­vam was sworn in to lead eco­nom­i­cally im­por­tant Tamil Nadu, a base for auto firms Ford Mo­tor Daim­ler, Hyundai and Nis­san and IT firm Cog­nizant.

Pan­neer­sel­vam had stood in for Jay­alalithaa in the past, but made it clear he was not re­plac­ing her. He de­clined to take her place at the head of the cabi­net table while she was ill and in­stead had her picture placed there. His rise to the top job in Tamil Nadu would help al­lay fears of a power strug­gle in the AIADMK, built en­tirely around the cult of Jay­alalithaa. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered out­side a memo­rial hall in the state cap­i­tal, Chen­nai, where Jay­alalithaa’s body lay draped in the In­dian flag.

Many wailed and beat their chests in grief. The fu­neral was set for later. Widely known as “Amma” or “Mother”, the film star­turned politi­cian had a cult fol­low­ing and there were fears sup­port­ers would re­act er­rat­i­cally to her death. A crowd had surged to­ward Apollo Hos­pi­tal where she lay fight­ing for her life ear­lier on Mon­day on ru­mors that she had died. “The level of rev­er­ence she in­spired, few other lead­ers had,” said a leader of the Con­gress party, Shashi Tha­roor. Jay­alalithaa had gone into car­diac ar­rest on Sunday night, the Apollo Hos­pi­tal said, fol­low­ing her ad­mis­sion with fever and de­hy­dra­tion in Septem­ber. She was 68. “She was not only our leader, she was our god,” said Paasarai Jeeva, a woman who said she had been camp­ing out­side the hos­pi­tal for a week. State au­thor­i­ties or­dered seven days of mourn­ing, schools were shut and thou­sands of po­lice de­ployed to pre­vent her sup­port­ers from cre­at­ing pub­lic dis­or­der or from harm­ing them­selves in grief. In the past, when Jay­alalithaa faced po­lit­i­cal prob­lems such as a jail term for cor­rup­tion, her loy­al­ists threat­ened to im­mo­late them­selves or lie down in streets for buses to run them over.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi was fly­ing to Chen­nai to mourn her death along with sev­eral other cabi­net col­leagues. “Jay­alalithaa ji’s con­nect with the cit­i­zens, con­cern for wel­fare of the poor, the women and marginal­ized will al­ways be a source of in­spi­ra­tion,” Modi said. His rul­ing Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the Con­gress, the other na­tional party, have lit­tle po­lit­i­cal pres­ence in Tamil Nadu de­spite years of ef­forts to build a base. Jay­alalithaa’s AIADMK and bit­ter ri­val DMK are the main po­lit­i­cal group­ings, al­ter­nat­ing in power. — Reuters

CHEN­NAI: In­dian army and air force of­fi­cers carry the body of In­dia’s pop­u­lar politi­cian and for­mer film ac­tress Ja­yaram Jay­alalithaa in a glass cas­ket dur­ing her fu­neral pro­ces­sion in Chen­nai, In­dia yes­ter­day. (Inset) In­dian sand artist Sudarsan Pat­tnaik pays trib­ute with his sand sculp­ture of In­dian politi­cian and ac­tress Jay­alalithaa Ja­yara­man. — AP

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