Jayalalitha visits MGR’s home as others contest his legacy


Chennai : AIADMK leader J. Jayalalitha Thursday visited the house of her mentor, co-star and late chief minister M.G. Ramachandran – popularly known as MGR – to pay tributes to him on his 91st birth anniversary and to remind her detractors that she is the political heir of the charismatic leader.

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The occasion drew a lot of media attention as the visit came after a gap of more than a decade.

The local units of the AIADMK played Nadaswaram – the traditional musical instrument – to welcome their leader.

Jayalalitha hoisted the party flag at the entrance of the sprawling Ramavaram Garden, unveiled a plaque and distributed prizes and food to children of the MGR School for Speech and Hearing Impaired, a school that is now run on the premises.

The move was necessitated by other politicians, especially actor Vijayakanth’s claim to being the ‘karappu’ MGR (dark MGR) and that he was the one who could return to Tamil Nadu MGR’s vision and achieve his mission, through his party the DMDK.

MGR’s films and songs are still popular and he is hugely respected in rural Tamil Nadu, which provides the AIADMK vote bank, which star politicians like Vijaykanth and Sarath Kumar hope to cut into.

A day before her visit, Jayalalitha issued a statement here saying: “MGR’s legacy is the AIADMK’s”.

“Let us not worry about some fledgling parties. People do not take them seriously,” she told her party workers.

“The AIADMK alone has the sole right to safeguard the name and fame of our founder leader MGR. No other party has the right to claim him,” she said.

Thursday, Jayalalitha refuted media allegations that she had not visited MGR’s house after his death, saying: “I went to Ramavaram Garden when I was the chief minister in 1995. After that, I had been there to see MGR’s wife Janaki Amma who was ailing. When she passed away in 1996, I again went to the place and paid homage”.

Meanwhile, DMK’s most high profile leader after Karunanidhi, M.K. Stalin Thursday morning paid floral tributes to MGR at his memorial, sending out the signal that even the DMK has claims to MGR’s legacy.

Actor and chief of the AISMK, Sarath Kumar Thursday said: “Her (Jayalalitha) visiting MGR’s residence after a long gap shows she is jittery at the advent of several actor-led parties in Tamil Nadu.”

MGR founded the ADMK in 1972, in opposition to the DMK, which had expelled him.

DMK leader M. Karunanidhi, years later, went on record to say: “That was an incident which could have been averted.”

Jayalalitha’s best-recorded visit to the Ramavaram Garden, in Chennai’s western outskirts, was when the AIADMK founder died Dec 24, 1987.

At that time, she was reportedly stopped from entering the house where she took her first political lessons and was denied a last glimpse of MGR by a faction of the party led by MGR’s wife Janaki Ramachandran, who made a bid for power, and became chief minister for a short while.

Jayalalitha was once MGR’s leading lady and her initiation into politics was under MGR’s patronage.

She joined the AIADMK officially in 1981 and was sent to the Rajya Sabha in 1984.

After MGR’s demise, his wife Janaki was chief minister till the state assembly was suspended and president’s rule imposed. Elections in 1989 saw the opposition DMK back in power.

When the DMK government was dismissed in 1990 by New Delhi and elections held again, Jayalalitha, perceived as the “wronged woman”, won a massive victory.

However, an emotional Jayalalitha rarely visited MGR’s house since the day he died, though she has led his party to several electoral victories in the state, making it the ruling party every alternate term since the 1990s.