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J Jayalalithaa, who died a year ago today


She appeared on their television screens, with such giants of cinema as Sivaji Ganesan and MGR. She governed their land during six stints as chief minister, endeavouring to fight female infanticide, introducing a slew of welfare schemes, and even toppling an NDA Union government by withdrawing her support.
And then, suddenly, she was gone.
J Jayalalithaa, known to her adoring cadres and supporters as 'Amma' or 'mother,' breathed her last at Chennai's Apollo hospital on December 5, 2016.
Twelve months that have passed since a sea of mourners thronged the roads around Rajaji Hall and MGR Memorial to say goodbye to Jayalalithaa. In those months, much has changed for her state and party.
What would the former AIADMK supremo make of today's Tamil Nadu?

To begin with, Jayalalithaa's RK Nagar Assembly seat remains vacant. A bypoll orginally scheduled for April - and then cancelled after raids unearthed proof of corruption - will now be held on December 21.
In February, Jayalalithaa's friend and aide VK Sasikala was on the cusp of achieving the glory of succeeding her as chief minister. But 'Chinnamma' now lives in a Bengaluru jail, having been convicted in a disproportionate assets case in which Jayalalithaa herself was named. 

O Panneerselvam (left) is now Tamil Nadu's deputy chief minister (Photo: PTI)
As for the AIADMK, the party hasn't been completely united since O Panneerselvam rebelled against Sasikala just before her imprisonment (that happened after a dramatic late-night meditation session at the memorial dedicated to Jayalalithaa).
While the leaders who followed Panneerselvam have now re-united with the larger Edappadi Palaniswami-led faction, some party members are loyal to Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, both of whom have been sidelined.

The AIADMK's symbol, the Rettai Ilai ('twin leaves'), which Jayalalithaa invoked so often by displaying her index and middle finger, became the object of dispute before the first RK Nagar bypoll. Only recently did the Election Commission decide to grant the united AIADMK - the merged Panneerselvam and Palaniswami factions (sans Dhinakaran and co) - the right to use it. 

Yes, much has changed in the year that has passed since Jayalalithaa's demise, but one thing remains the same. Even in death, 'Amma' continues to be the AIADMK's undisputed leader. The party's cadre may answer to different living masters, but none of those leaders - Palaniswami, Panneerselvam, or Dhinakaran - is taller than she.
And perhaps they will never be.