Chennai, Jan 16: Such was his sway that even after 20 years of his death, the mere mention of the name MGR spells magic among the rural masses during elections.
And exactly 20 years later, AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa will visit her political-mentor's residence at suburban Ramavaram tomorrow on the occasion of his 91st birth anniversary, which was aimed at retaining her hold on MGR's vote-bank, more so in the context of political parties bracing up for a possible snap poll to Lok Sabha.
This would be the first visit of Ms Jayalalithaa to the once politically holy precincts of Ramavaram Gardens after she took over the Party leadership in 1989. After MGR's death, the AIADMK split into two factions--one led by Ms Jayalalithaa and the other by his widow Janaki--before the party was unified under Ms Jayalalithaa after the drubbing in the 1989 Assembly polls. The AIADMK also managed to wrest the 'two leaves' symbol for the party.
She had last visited the Ramavaram Gardens, the hub of Tamil Nadu's political activities in 70s and 80s, on December 24, 1987, when AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran, affectionately called as MGR, breathed his last.
Political observers attach political significance to the visit and aver that it is an attempt by Ms Jayalalithaa to keep AIADMK's MGR vote bank intact, especially in the context of emerging leaders like DMDK founder and actor--politician Vijaykanth, also called ''Black MGR'', who is staking claim to MGR's political legacy.
Ms Jayalalithaa's visit to her once celluloid hero's residence, was even more significant in the backdrop of a poll survey favouring a good chunk of MGR vote share likely to switch to Vijayakanth's DMDK. Of late, the photos of MGR are seen alongside Vijayakanth in the party's posters and cutouts. It was MGR who had initiated Ms Jayalalithaa into politics after pairing with her in several box office hits from the mid 60s to early 70s, making her the propaganda secretary of his AIADMK.
By visiting MGR's house, Ms Jayalalithaa, who has been leading the party since the legend's death, wanted to send a clear message to the rural populace that she was the true political heir of MGR.
''There is no denial of the fact that even after two decades of his demise, MGR is regarded as a great leader by most of the party cadres, especially in rural areas'', an observer said.
In an apparant move to win the affection of the voters on the eve of MGR's birth anniversary the Tamil satellite channel ''JayaTV'' showed clippings of the mass leader participating in the implementation of several welfare schemes during his rule.
During her visit Jayalalithaa would hoist the party flag at the entrance of MGR's residence, unveil a plaque and distribute prizes to children of the 'Dr MGR School for Speech and Hearing Impaired,' being run on the premises as per the late leader's will.
After garlanding the MGR's statue, she would also pay respects at the memorials of MGR's mother Sathyabhama, MGR and his wife Janaki in the premises.
AIADMK sources said ''Amma (as Ms Jayalalithaa is affectionately called) did not visit the Ramavaram Gardens all these years as she was humiliated and prevented from seeing the body of MGR.'' Meanwhile, in an epistle to the AIADMK workers on the eve of his birth anniversary, Ms Jayalalithaa, in a veiled reference to Vijayakanth and Sarath Kumar, said the party cadres should not be unduly concerned about the mushrooming of new parties.
''Let us take a pledge on the occasion to strive continuously for the people's welfare as envisioned by MGR and work towards ushering in a golden rule headed by the AIADMK'', she said.
Meanwhile, the sprawling six and a half acre Ramavaram Gardens was given a facelift with fresh coat of paints. The gardens were refurbished to give it a new look.