A grand memorial for late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, modelled on a phoenix to depict her political resurgence against all odds, was unveiled here on Wednesday with incumbent K Palaniswami vowing to form 'Amma's' government after the coming assembly elections.
The imposing edifice off the famous Marina Beach was thrown open to the general public by Palaniswami amid slogans hailing her by thousands of ruling AIADMK volunteers, nearly three years after he laid the foundation stone for it.
Vowing to retain power, he said the goal was to form 'Amma's (Jayalalithaa's) government' and it is the debt of gratitude they owed to the late AIADMK supremo, who had died on December 5, 2016 due to various ailments seven months after leading the party to a second straight term.
Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said the memorial was a temple they built for her historic achievements and sought the late leader's 'blessings' to emerge victorious in the assembly elections, likely in April-May.
The opposition DMK slammed the construction of the memorial for a "convicted person", an apparent reference to the trial court finding her guilty in a disproportionate assets case though it was later set aside by the Karnataka High Court, which exonerated her.
The 'phoenix' themed structure, spread over 14,100 square feet is 15 meters high, 30.50 meters in length and 43 meters in width it houses the mausoleum of Jayalalithaa. Its design was made in consultation with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras by the state Public Works Department.
Phoenix is a mythological bird that dies in a fire of its own making only to rise again from the ashes. Jayalalithaa, a five-time chief minister, had staged remarkable comebacks after she had to quit office twice over corruption cases in 2001 and 2004.
She made her first dramatic comeback in 2001, five years after being almost written off politically following graft charges. The memorial's entrance is adorned by two lion sculptures and bronze busts of Jayalalithaa and late chief minister M G Ramachandran, her political mentor and the AIADMK founder.
Her signature slogan "Makkalal Naan Makkalukkaga Naan", meaning her stature was because of the people and she was for the people, was brightly engraved on the mausoleum and a huge photograph of the late leader placed nearby. Jayalalithaa was noted for pioneering schemes, including the cradle baby scheme, all women police stations, 'Amma' canteens and initiatives aimed at improving the lot of women.
DMK president M K Stalin said the memorial is for a person convicted in a disproportionate assets case. "I am not saying that it is not needed," he quickly added. However, he sought to know if it was fair to open the memorial when her death still remained a 'mystery' and when a Commission of Inquiry to look into the circumstances has got a tenth extension. A total of Rs 79.75 crore, including maintenance charges for five years, was allotted for the memorial construction, an official told PTI.
The site, adjacent to the mausoleum of Ramachandran, has already been rechristened 'Bharat Ratna Dr MGR and Puratchi Thalaivi Amma Selvi J Jayalalithaa Memorial," and the premises is spread over 9.09 acres.
Together with other features of the memorial like a museum and knowledge park, each of 8,555 sq ft, the total built-up area of the premises, including the mausoleum portion, is 50,422 sq ft.
Features like the museum, which would showcase wax statues of leaders and a photo exhibition, and the knowledge park are expected to be inaugurated on the birth anniversary of Jayalalithaa on February 24.
Designed aesthetically, the memorial features landscaped garden, pavilions, granite footpaths, fountains, pleasing lighting and plants and trees suiting the soil condition were procured from Rajahmahendravaram in Andhra Pradesh.
Following the inauguration, people flocked to the site and many were seen clicking selfies and photographs in the memorial of 'Amma.' Earlier, Palaniswami, Panneerselvam and Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal and other ministers paid floral tributes to the late leader soon after the inauguration.
The Chief Minister and his deputy prostrated at the spot as a mark of respect to Jayalalithaa. In his address, Palaniswami hailed Jayalalithaa as an 'iron lady' who was lauded as courageous even by opponents and recalled that she successfully steered both the government and party with 'military discipline.'
He also listed her achievements, including 69 per cent reservation in the state. He slammed Stalin for his "evil idea" to try and 'scuttle' the construction of the memorial by making his 'proxies' approach the court.
However, petitions opposing the memorial for Amma off the Marina beach were withdrawn to help facilitate burial of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi in 2018, he said.