Jayalalithaa - 1948-2016

Jayalalithaa - From silver screen to political dream

Jayalalithaa debuted in the Tamil film industry with Vennira Aadai in 1964. She and MGR acted together in 28 films, including Kavalkaaran, Adimai Pen, Engal Thangam, Kudiyiruntha Koil, Ragasiya Police 115 and Nam Naadu. Some of her popular movies are Vennira Aadai, Aayirathil Oruvan, Kavalkaran, Pudhiya Boomi, Iru Deivangal, Nadhiyai Thedi Vandha Kadal.
Jayalalithaa's last film was Nadhiyai Thedi Vandha Kadal in 1980.
MGR was Jayalalithaa’s mentor and inducted her into the party in 1982. The following year, he made her propaganda secretary. In 1984, taking everyone by surprise, he got her elected to the Rajya Sabha.
MGR’s death: A grief-stricken Jayalalithaa standing beside MGR’s body was the defining image in Tamil Nadu politics then. Her being pushed off the carriage during his funeral procession also earned her sympathy.
Her being pushed off the carriage during his funeral procession also earned her sympathy.
After MGR’s demise in 1987 the party split, with Jayalalithaa heading one faction and MGR’s widow, Janaki Ramachandran, leading the other with the support of senior leaders such as Rm. Veerappan. Janaki was made Chief Minister on January 7, 1988, with the support of 97 members in a House of 234, after she won the confidence motion in a voting marred by allegations of foul play. The Union government led by Rajiv Gandhi dismissed her government.
AIADMK lost the subsequent election but with Jayalalithaa’s faction winning 27 seats against Janaki’s two. She remained a Rajya Sabha MP till she was elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 1989 and became Leader of Opposition.
On March 25, 1989, in a DMK-Opposition clash inside Assembly, Jayalalithaa was allegedly manhandled. In the melee, her saree was torn . She appeared before the media red-faced and with dishevelled hair and vowed that she would not return to the House “until she becomes Chief Minister”. Two years later, she made good on that promise.
In 1991, Jayalalithaa became Chief Minister for the first time, heading a coalition government that included the Congress. She was Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996, and then from 2001 to 2006 (barring the period from September 2001 to March 2003, when she had to step down). In 2011, she returned to power with a massive victory.
Her friend, Sasikala Natarajan, a former video-shop owner, had her complete trust. Most others were always kept at an arm’s length. Sasikala’s presence in her Poes Garden residence, however, invited scorn from many.
Jayalalithaa’s critics claimed that it was her closeness with Sasikala that blemished her political career, especially during her first tenure as Chief Minister (1991-96). One of Sasikala’s nephews, V.N. Sudhakaran, was declared as Jayalalithaa’s foster son. It was the media coverage of Sudhakaran’s lavish wedding in September 1995 that caused much public revulsion. The AIADMK went on to lose all the 39 Lok Sabha seats and won just four Assembly constituencies in the 1996 general elections.
Following the 1996 electoral rout, Jayalalithaa declared that she was formally disassociating herself from Ms. Sasikala and family and announced that she would abjure jewellery for the rest of her life. However, after a short term in prison for illegal foreign transactions, Ms. Sasikala reunited with Jayalalithaa.
Jayalalithaa was barred from standing as a candidate in the 2001 elections because she had been found guilty of criminal offences, including allegedly obtaining property belonging to a state-operated agency called TANSI. Despite this, the AIADMK won a majority and she was instated as Chief Minister as a non-elected member of the State assembly on 14 May 2001.
Jayalalithaa jettisoned the Sasikala family for a second time in December 2011. She expelled Sasikala and a dozen of her family members from the party on the suspicion that Mr. Natarajan and others were plotting to take over the AIADMK. However, this separation also lasted only a little over 100 days.
A large portion of the assets for which Jayalalithaa was hauled up in courts belonged to businesses and firms floated by Ms. Sasikala and her friends in the early 1990s. The prosecution had demonstrated that these were shell companies used to launder ill-gotten money and presented as business income to the authorities.
Jayalalithaa studiously distanced herself from her cinematic past and cultivated a mature image. Her stands on Cauvery and Sri Lankan Tamils endeared her to the masses.

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