Two months after she died, the image of Jayalalithaa is still evident everywhere in Chennai. She spent a total of fourteen years as chief minister of Tamil Nadu state and was in office when she died at the age of 68. 'Amma', she's universally known as - the Tamil word for mother.
She had a turbulent political career - and was jailed at one time on corruption charges and more recently was disqualified from office while facing an accusation of having 'disproportionate assets' (she was eventually acquitted). She was a populist, highly regarded - especially beyond Chennai - for her social welfare schemes and seen as a champion of Tamil culture and interests, able to stand up to the largely North Indian political elite in Delhi.
Jayalalithaa's grave - she was buried, which is unusual for Hindus, who normally practice cremation - has become a pilgrimage spot. It's just by Marina beach, looking out on the Bay of Bengal. When I went, there were dozens of families coming on days out, with flowers to leave as a sign of reverence, and taking photos of themselves alongside their hero's likeness.
Her burial place stands alongside the petal-like modernist memorial to her political patron and mentor, MGR (M.G. Ramachandran) - the first Indian film star to rise to the top ranks of politics. He remains a Tamil cultural icon. Thirty years older than Jayalalithaa, the two starred in many Tamil movies - in all, she appeared in 140 films. It's difficult to be sure just how close the two were. But when MGR died in 1987, she inherited his political mantle - and never looked back.
But who will inherit Jayalithaa's political legacy? There's much talk that Jayalalithaa's closest friend and confidante, Sasikala, will make her move. She's already been named the party's general secretary. The nature of the relationship between the two women is opaque - one of my students suggested they could best be described as 'soul sisters'.
Sasikala has the loyalty of many of the party's faithful, some of whom are extravagant in their demonstrations of support. But she's doesn't enjoy anything like the same level of public affection. Her reputation has been tarnished by suggestions of extravagance and nepotism.
The rival dynasty in Tamil politics - the nonagenarian M. Karunanidhi and his son and political heir, Stalin (repeat, Stalin) - are biding their time, Tamil Nadu is one of India's bigger states and whoever rules here has influence at national level too. And in this highly political south-east corner of the country, everyone's waiting for the post-Amma political danse macabre to get underway.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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