J. Jayalalithaa: Extraordinary leader of ordinary people

The late Tamil Nadu chief minister was a true role model for millions of women to realize their power in public service.

By Dr. Rajan Natarajan

rajan-natarajanWASHINGTON, DC: Like tens of millions of Tamil people in India and the diaspora living here, I am deeply saddened by the death of Chief Minister Dr. Jayalalithaa, who passed away after more than two months of hospitalization at the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

While serving as the chief diplomat of Maryland, I had interacted and worked with her cabinet ministers and top government officials on many projects like Sister State, education, energy, transportation, and medical technologies.  Upon her government invitation, we led a 20-member U.S. business delegation to take a part at the Global Investor Summit held in Chennai.

The meeting left a very positive impression and gave us an opportunity to see her bold vision and strategic road map to make Tamil Nadu a progressive state. On another occasion, I also had a chance to closely evaluate her Vision 2023, which was a remarkable economic blue print for the betterment of Tamil Nadu.

Jayalalithaa dedicated her entire life to eliminate poverty and starvation among the poor people. While doing that, she was a beacon of light for all poor people and ordinary citizens, for whom she implemented numerous welfare programs and rural development schemes. That’s what made the late chief minister an exemplary and extraordinary leader.


As Secretary Hillary Clinton said after her meeting with Jayalalithaa back in 2013, the late chief minister was a strong and determined leader, and an embodiment of women’s empowerment. Jayalalithaa lived her entire life as a beloved mother for millions of poor children. The legacy of the Iron Lady, as she is fondly remembered by many, will be remembered forever. Not many politicians have shown the courage which Jayalalithaa — who rocked Indian politics — displayed in her political life.

A visionary leader full of guts and brave, she has left a huge void in Tamil Nadu and Indian politics.

“Amma” (the Mother), as she was always fondly referred to by the masses, she is indeed a mother of many comebacks in her political life. This great leader led her life with a lot of dignity and her remarkable accomplishments will stay in our mind and heart forever. She was a true role model for millions of women to realize their power in public service and work for the betterment of the society and the nation. My thoughts and prayers are with the grieving Tamils both in India and in the diaspora. May God bless her soul.

Dr. Rajan Natarajan is a former Maryland Deputy Secretary of State. He now serves as the Commissioner of Transportation. He is the first Indian-born Tamil American to serve in a top administrative position in the United States.