ONE of India’s most recognisable political figures has passed away at the age of 68.
J Jayalalithaa suffered a heart attack on the evening of Sunday December 4 and was pronounced dead at Chennai’s Apollo Hospital at 11.30pm.
Her passing has sent shockwaves throughout the country. Jayalalitha was hugely popular in India, where she has been described alternately as a political icon, a maternal figure, and a trailblazer for women’s rights.
Jayalalithaa was a former film star who later moved into politics in the early 1980s. At the time of her death she was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu state, a position which she had occupied on four separate occasions.
She was not without her critics, who alleged that the effect that she had on her admirers was almost cult-like. The news of her death has even sparked concerns that the country may erupt into unrest owing to the ardent devotion of her many supporters.
Initially her death was erroneously reported earlier on Sunday afternoon. The statement was retracted, but her passing was later confirmed by representatives from the hospital, where Jayalalithaa had been receiving treatment since September.
Following her death, various public figures ranging from politicians to high-profile Bollywood actors and actresses offered their condolences over social media.
Actress and politician Khushboo Sundar described Jayalalitha as “a symbol of strength” for women in general as she forged her way fearlessly in the traditionally male-dominated world of politics.
Jayalalithaa was accused of corruption several times, even doing short stints in prison on several occasions. She was sent to prison as recently as 2014, but was later cleared by a high court order a year later. Regardless of any incidents that may have tarnished her name, her legions of supporters remained unwavering in their loyalty. Jayalalithaa’s appeal was largely attributable to the widespread public perception that she was an instrumental figure in Tamil Nadu’s emergence as one of the economic powerhouses of India.