Jayalalithaa - 1948-2016

Of two interviews, two traits

Karan Thapar.  

Jayalalithaa, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, enjoyed a mixed relationship with the media.

There are a couple of interviews that actually bring out her personality traits. Ever since the news of her death was announced, two interviews — one she gave to anchor Simi Garewal, and, the other, a fiery interview she gave to journalist Karan Thapar — have gone viral on social media.

The two interviews present two different facets of Jayalalithaa.

She comes across as an affable, charming, sporting but also vulnerable person in one interview. But the other has her throwing the mike after being asked to respond to a barrage of allegations about her ‘religiosity,’ superstition and control over the AIADMK.

In her interview with Ms. Garewal, Jayalalithaa talks about her fear of strangers, being pushed into two careers that required her to be in the limelight, rather than letting her be a ‘behind-the-scenes’ person.


Describing herself as ‘hyper-sensitive’, Jayalalithaa makes no bones about how she “fought her greatest battles” after MGR died.

“As long as he was alive, he was leader and I had to follow him. He didn’t smoothen the way for me to become his successor. Not like Mrs. Indira Gandhi did to Rajiv Gandhi and groomed him to take over. The most difficult battle I have had to fight was to consolidate my position within the party. If I had been an academician or a lawyer, I wouldn’t have had so much mud slung at me,” she says.

However, in the interview with Karan Thapar for BBC’s Hard Talk, Ms. Jayalalithaa wants to know why the media is “so biased against me,” as she responds to the criticism that she is undemocratic, irrational and vengeful.

“The media is biased because I am a self-made woman. It is because I don’t have a family background like other women political leaders,” she says.

Responding to whether she reversed her economic reforms like stopping power to farmers because she was routed in the 2004 Parliamentary elections, Jayalalithaa firmly insists that she did not. “I am not dogmatic or opinionated. If a change is warranted in a new situation, so be it,” she says.

On why she lets her partymen prostrate before her, she replies, “People are the best judges. The media has never had good things to say about me. It [Falling in the feet] is an Indian tradition and I have instructed my partymen not to do it.” Jayalalithaa also vehemently refuses to discuss her relationship with Congress leader Sonia Gandhi because ‘it is her democratic right to choose the questions she wants to answer’.

While Karan Thapar goes in the same vein throughout the interview that runs for approximately 23 minutes, Jayalalithaa becomes increasingly aggressive. Asked if she is ‘superstitious’ despite being part of the Dravidian movement, which espoused atheism, rationalism and secular values, Jayalalithaa says, “Who said that I believe in numerology and astrology? The media says it. What proof do you have? I am not superstitious.”

‘Rather disappointed’

At a certain point, she says bluntly: “I am rather disappointed by the tone and tenor of the interview.”

Asked if she sees a turn in her electoral fortunes in 2006, she says that she doesn’t believe in astrology and she can’t predict what is going to happen. The interview ends with her throwing the mike to show her displeasure. “I suppose you will be around,” she says, before adding: “I must say it wasn’t a pleasure talking to you. Namaste.”

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 11:42:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/of-two-interviews-two-traits/article16769493.ece1

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