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J Jayalalithaa (1948-2016): The doughty fighter who earned her place in the Dravidian pantheon

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With her death, Tamil Nadu has lost one of its two last mass leaders

At the funeral of the iconic MG Ramachandran, the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, in 1987, a solitary woman stood her ground behind his mortal remains. The sadness was writ large on the face of the 39-year-old J Jayalalithaa, who had been encouraged to enter politics five years earlier by her mentor MGR.

Most of her colleagues in the party – predominantly men – hated her for her swift rise through the ranks of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. This animosity reached its peak at the funeral, when she was heckled and subjected to verbal abuse and questioning about the relationship she had with MGR. She had even been pushed out of the vehicle that was to carry the body to the funeral site on Marina Beach.

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