Tamil Nadu

Cho Ramaswamy: a long-time friend but vocal critic of Jayalalithaa

When Cho was admitted to hospital last year with a respiratory ailment, former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa visited him to enquire about his health.  

Cho Ramaswamy's association with political leaders transcended the sort of friendships that journalists routinely maintain with them. It was a role that resulted in key political decisions and major developments.

Even though he could count towering figures such as K. Kamaraj, Jayaprakash Narayan and Morarji Desai among those with whom he was closely associated, it was Cho's friendship with former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa that attracted much attention in recent times.

Their careers began roughly at the same time, and they acted in some films together. Cho was seen as an advisor to Jayalalithaa, though neither of them thought so, preferring instead to characterise their proximity as just as a long-standing friendship.

When he was admitted to hospital last year with a respiratory ailment, she visited him to enquire about his health. It is a strange conjunction of destiny that he died in the same hospital as her within a day-and-a-half of her death.

Contrary to popular perception, Cho always had reservations about supporting Jayalalithaa. Soon after AIADMK founder M.G. Ramachandran's death, his wife Janaki was sworn in Chief Minister. However, she lacked the requisite numbers, given that many AIADMK members had backed Jayalalithaa.

Cho wanted the Janaki Ramachandran ministry to survive, as he strongly felt it would keep Ms. Jayalalithaa and the DMK at bay. However, Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi favoured Jayalalithaa, and the Janaki government collapsed in January 1988 after unprecedented violence in the Assembly following the Congress' refusal to back her regime.

In 1996, Cho had become a strident critic of Jayalalithaa's first tenure as Chief Minister. He played a pivotal role in bringing together the DMK and the newly launched Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) led by G.K. Moopanar against the AIADMK and the Congress led by P.V. Narasimha Rao. He persuaded actor Rajinikanth to openly support the DMK-TMC combine.

He adequately warned the BJP against forging an alliance for the 1998 Lok Sabha elections with Ms. Jayalalithaa. His reservations proved prophetic, as the Vajpayee regime fell after she withdrew support after just one year.

However, in 2001, Cho did warm up to her and once again played a role in bringing Moopanar’s TMC and the AIADMK together. This was the very man who helped the DMK and the TMC form an unassailable combine only five years earlier.

Thereafter, he did occasionally sound critical of the AIADMK supremo, but his political positions were by and large guided by his unbridled hostility to the DMK and its patriarch M. Karunanidhi.

In his address to Thuglaq readers in January last – it is an annual fixture – he advised voters against supporting ‘family rule’, implying that they should vote against the DMK.

Perhaps, an episode from their theatre days best sums up the relationship between Cho and Jayalalithaa.

During the rehearsal of a play ‘The Whole Truth’, Cho, donning the role of the villain, was supposed to strangle the character played by Jayalalithaa. as he closed in, she could not help laughing instead of being afraid. “His expressions made me laugh,” she explained.

“She might have treated my stinging comments too as comical,” Cho was to quip later.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 10:56:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Cho-Ramaswamy-a-long-time-friend-but-vocal-critic-of-Jayalalithaa/article16771674.ece

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