KOCHI: Jayalalitha is the utter despair of the political commentator, analyst . All your news gathering skills analytical tools and categories fail in understanding her persona and her charisma . You have nothing to work on except palace gossip.No news sources to commentate on palace affairs, no deep throat to pass on the palace secrets. She hardly spoke or wrote on herself or the world. Her public speeches were either ersatz officialese or crass vote catching polemic directed at her bete noire Karunanidhi. No press conferences, no interviews except the odd one she gave to Simi Garewal.

But the Puratchi Thalaivi, revolutionary leader turned Amma, mother goddess of millions of Tamils across the globe was the ultimate delight of the psycho analyst .He could scan her mind, probe her thoughts, dig up her roots, describe her pet obsessions and superstitions, without the risk of failure in understanding her. Was the queen a love starved beauty, avenging angel, benevolent dictator ? Did she hold men in contempt or simply hated them? Did she enjoy putting her lackeys to regular loyalty tests, making her former bitter foes to come to her on their knees seeking forgiveness and favors ? Was she secretive by nature or by circumstances It was always easier to raise questions than get answers about Jayalalithaa.

The point of intersection of politics and psychology is power. But the usual analytical categories of caste , class , ideology or stardom does not help you to understand Jayalalitha's rise to power, her craze for power and her use of power. As a school girl she was reluctant to join films. As a young woman she wad no taste for politics. She was forced to take to acting by her strong willed her mother Vedavalli who was herself a minor Tamil film actor and to take to politics by MGR, her father figure, lover and mentor. But it is history that she forgave both.

A close look at Jayalalitha's rise to power dispels any impression that she inherited power from MGR. Her mentor certainly initiated her into politics but never groomed her to succeed him on the throne to which there were many pretenders including MGR's wife Janaki whose supporters humiliated her in public at every opportunity. Thus it was by no means a dynastic succession of sorts. Jaya, a brahmin who was born in Karnataka had to fight every inch to the top in the AIDMK which her mentor matinee idol had formed after breaking away from the deep rooted mainstream anti Brahimical Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu then overwhelmingly represented by the DMK. All that MGR took from the legacy of the powerful Dravidian movement was the name of one of its founders,Annadurai or Anna.

And Anna's name in the party that she singlehandedlly captured did not politically inhibit her in any way at any stage in her search for and consolidation of power. She struck by turns opportunistic deals with the BJP that historically represented the main target of the militant Dravidian movement and the Congress which the movement had displaced from power in Tamil Nadu for good. She could override by her uncanny opportunism, the empathy of the Tamil people for the fighters of Tamil Elam in Sri Lanka.

It was neither her glamour as a sexy film star nor the legacy of MGR or the Dravidian sub nationalism that she worked to her advantage all through. If one could arrive at a tentative explanation for her success against heavy odds including her status as an unmarried woman in a society where wedlock and motherhood are coveted cultural virtues and against a male dominated political arena, it is personal sympathy, brazen political ruthlessness and a razor sharp intelligence and far sight that could sense a political opportunity when it surfaced in the state or at the centre.

The reason she cold draw on personal sympathy was not that she played the tearjerker victim card Her trump was her fighter woman image, that too the rare image of the fighting single woman image.Even when she lost out to her sworn political enemies at the hustings or in the court rooms where she was repeatedly arraigned for corruption Jayalitha went down fighting. Her two jail terms boosted her image even as they took a heavy toll of her health that many believe to lead up to her premature death. She was openly ruthlessness with her opponents to enhance her image as a strong ruler in the tradition of some the ancient Chola and Pandya Kings of yore.

Jayalalithaa was cynical to the core about democratic values , norms as her record of suppression of several struggle by working people amply show. But she was never smug. Her reinvention of her own image in the final phase of her life as Amma a bountiful, caring mother goddess disbursing freebies among her subjects reliving their social hardship was the result of her readiness to learn from both political victories and defeats.

Perhaps that was the image she wanted to leave behind as the curtain was drawing down on her checkered life.

(N. Madhavan Kutty is a senior journalist and political commentator)