Tamil Nadu

The five oaths of Jayalalithaa

The setting is all too familiar. Twenty-five years ago, she stepped on to the dais of the Centenary Auditorium of the Madras University to be sworn in by Governor Bhishma Narain Singh as Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister and the youngest one (at 43 then) who would complete a full term in office.

Today, when the 68-year-old AIADMK party chief takes her oath for the sixth time, she will become the first Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in 30 years to have retained power; and perhaps more importantly, is just one step short of equalling her rival Karunanidhi’s record of occupying the State’s top seat.

Here’s a flashback to each of those times when Jayalalithaa found herself being put through protocol as she staked claim to form a majority government:

July 24, 1991

The five oaths of Jayalalithaa

With a dark cape over her sari — her uniform look for the next five years — Ms. Jayalalitha (she didn’t have the extra ‘a’ at the end back then) had scripted her entry, first as the AIADMK heir to MGR, and then in alliance with the Congress, aided by a sympathy wave following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, won 225 out of 234 seats. It was after this swearing-in ceremony that some of her party men fell at her feet — a practice that is continued with discipline to this day.

May 14, 2001

The five oaths of Jayalalithaa

Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was found guilty in the TANSI property scam, was barred from contesting elections. That, however, did not stop her from campaigning. The AIADMK ended up winning 132 seats. 'Amma' argued that it was a mandate from the people for her to take up the post as CM. Governor Fathima Beevi invoked Article 164 of the Indian Constitution (which says the Governor has the freedom to ask anyone to become the Chief Minister) and invited her to form the government.

March 2, 2002

The five oaths of Jayalalithaa

In September 2001, the Supreme Court declared her swearing-in ceremony was unconstitutional and void. She immediately stepped down and announced O. Panneerselvam as her successor. By December, the Madras High Court acquitted her in the TANSI case. Ms. Jayalalithaa lost no time; she contested an election, won with a resounding margin and walked right back into her CM’s office.

May 16, 2011

The five oaths of Jayalalithaa

Exit polls had predicted a hung assembly. The AIADMK instead ended up winning an absolute majority (150 seats) on its own. This regime would mark the beginning of her trademark populist schemes. She even started looking one step further in 2014: New Delhi. Except that her prime-ministerial ambitions were blown away by the ‘Modi wave’. Her party, though, ended up winning 37 of the 39 Parliamentary seats in Tamil Nadu.

May 23, 2015

The five oaths of Jayalalithaa

Just months after the Parliamentary Elections ended, trouble found its way to Ms. Jayalalithaa’s doorstep once again. The 18-year-old disproportionate assets case had come to haunt her. A makeshift court in Bengaluru, in September 2014, sentenced her and three of her associates to four years in prison along with a hefty fine. Ms. Jayalalithaa became the first Chief Minister to be automatically disqualified as an MLA from her house. The ever-loyal Mr. Panneerselvam stepped in to keep her seat warm, until the Karnataka High Court acquitted her and the associates next year. Ms. Jayalalithaa ended up winning the by-election from R.K. Nagar by more than 1.6 lakh votes.

The five oaths of Jayalalithaa

Exactly a year to that day, she is being sworn in for the sixth time to take charge of Tamil Nadu at her preferred location: the Madras University Centenary Auditorium, where four of the previous ceremonies had taken place. The Raj Bhavan swearing-in, in 2001 had not resulted in a happy ending.

But this time, though the verdict of the people is in her favour, the corruption case from last year is now pending in the Supreme Court of India.

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Printable version | Oct 14, 2021 10:46:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/the-five-oaths-of-jayalalithaa/article14335230.ece1

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