New Delhi : Tamils in the Indian capital on Tuesday paid homage to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, insisting it will be impossible for anyone to fill the void created by her death.

From blue collar workers to the poor, Tamil men and women IANS spoke to were unanimous that Jayalalithaa, who died on Monday night at the age of 68, was truly an iconic leader. And the main reason for her widespread popularity in populous Tamil Nadu was her genuine concern for the underprivileged.

“No one can be more popular than Amma because she always wanted to do something for the public,” G.N.D. Elangovan said in a brief conversation at the Delhi Tamil Sangam.

A cine star when she entered politics, Jayalalitha became another MGR or M.G. Ramachandran – her mentor, legendary actor and founder leader of the AIADMK.

“MGR was like her too,” Elangovan said. “After his death (in 1987), she filled the void. She provided free electricity, mixers, grinders, fans and all those small items the poor could not afford to buy.”

In her later years, she introduced the Amma Canteen where one could get sumptuous food for as little as Rs 10.  “No other leader in India is so popular in India,” said Elangogan.

Many Tamils living and working in Delhi maintain close links with Tamil Nadu. Some vote in the state. But even those who don’t had a good thing or two to say about the AIADMK leader.

“She worked for the Tamil community and women in particular,” said M.S. Ravi, a Tamil who made Delhi his home a long time back.

He said Jayalalithaa, as the five-time Chief Minister, provided houses to the poor, potable water for Rs 10 a bottle, financial aid to conduct the wedding of poor girls which included gold and money. Her government also gave 20 kg of rice free to the poor and free bus passes and books, laptop and cycle to the students in the state. “We cannot forget Amma as long as we live,” Ravi told IANS.

Many said her greatest achievement was the way she put down, with an iron hand, “goondaism” in Tamil Nadu. She also banned liquor in the state, earning the frenzied support of poor women tormented by drunkard husbands.

Almost all Tamil-owned shops in Delhi were shuttered on Tuesday as a mark of respect for Jayalalithaa. Even the Tamil street vendors who make a living selling the hugely popular dosas, vadas and idlis, preferred to suffer loss than work on a day their favourite leader would be laid to rest on the Chennai beach.   –IANS

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