J Jayalalithaa- A political biography

By: R Mani
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Jayalalithaa Jayaram, was born on Febrary 24, 1948 at Melukote, Pandavapura Taluka, in the then Mysore district, to Jayaram and Vedavalli in a Tamil Iyengar family. Jayalalithaa lost her father
when she was just two. Her original name was Komalavalli (her grandmother's name) and she got the name "Jayalalithaa" when she was just one year old.

She had her early schooling at Mysore ( now Mysuru) itself and then moved to Chennai where her mother was working as a film artist. She finished her schooling at the Church Park convent. She acted in over 100 films.


In 1982 Jayalalithaa entered active politics and her political mentor and the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M.G. Ramachandran or MGR inducted her in to the ruling All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or AIADMK. In 1983 she was made as a member of a high power committee
which was looking after functioning of noon meal scheme for school children.

In 1983 she presided over AIADMK's women's' wing meet in Cuddalore. MGR instructed the then lady Collector of Cuddalore V.S. Chandralekha, IAS, to assist Jayalalithaa for conducting the meeting.
At that time M.Natarajan was the PRO of the district and his wife Sasikala was doing small time video shootings of political events and public functions. Chandralekha introduced Sasikala to Jayalalithaa for
video graphing the conference and thus began the "epic friendship of sorts" which stood the test of times.

Countering Karunanidhi:

In fact MGR brought in Jayalalithaa to counter the political onslaught of his arch rival and the DMK President M Karunanidhi. The MGR government was dismissed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in March 1980 but MGR bounced back to power in June. But MGR's health was started deteriorating and he was not able to undertake tours across the state.

On the other hand Karunanidhi a vociferous orator was on a whirlwind tour of the state exposing MGR government's failures. To check that political onslaught MGR brought in Jayalalithaa and the later started touring throughout the state as the CM's voice and addressed rallies. In 1984 MGR sent Jayalaithaa to Rajya Sabha and she was there till 1989.

The death of MGR:

The death of MGR in December 1987 forced the AIADMK to split in to two. While one faction was led by MGR's widow Janaki the other faction was led by Jayalalithaa. Janaki became the Chief Minister but
her government lasted for just three weeks. On January 28, 1988 while taking a floor test there was massive violence inside the assembly.

While Jankai faction was enjoying the support of 96 MLAs the Jayalalithaa faction was had 28 MLAs. Though the speaker P.H. Pandian, (Janaki faction) declared that Janaki won the vote of confidence the Rajiv Gandhi government dismissed the Tamil Nadu government on January 30, 1988. The split in the AIADMK vote bank brought the DMK to power in the 1989 January elections. Just two months after that both the AIADMK factions merged and Jayalalithaa became the party General
Secretary with Janaki announcing retirement from active politics.


The DMK government was dismissed on January 30, 1991 by the Chandrashekar government. AIADMK - Congress alliance swept the polls in June 1991 just a month after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination and Jayalalithaa became Chief Minister of the state with 160 MLAs in a
house of 234. At that time her 11 Lok Sabha MPs were supporting the P.V. Narasimha Rao's government and she withdrew her support on March 1993 and played an active role in toppling the Rao government when a no confidence motion was taken on July 28, 1993. But somehow
the Narasimha Rao government survived.

Corruption charges:

In the 1991 - 1996 period corruption charges against her reached new proportions and the famous marriage of her adopted son in September 1995 became world famous for its lavishness. In the 1996 elections again AIADMK went in to an alliance with the Congress but bit the dust by securing just 4 MLAs. Jayalalithaa was defeated in the Bargur constituency.

Within 18 months Jayalalithaa bounced back by winning 18 MPs in the February 1998 Lok Sabha elections as part of the NDA combine. After initial dithering Jayalalithaa sent her support letter to NDA nominee Atal Bihari Vajpayee to form the government.

AIADMK was given four ministers in the NDA government and from day one Jayalalithaa started threatening the Vajpayee government that she would withdraw support. She put the Vajpayee government on tenterhooks and the government was forced to survive on a day to day
basis. Her main demand was to dismiss the Karunanidhi government in Tamil Nadu.

Vajpayee stood his ground and refused to budge and paid the price for it. On April 17, 1999 Jayalalithaa along with the Congress toppled the Vajpayee government with just one vote.
The torture exerted by Jayalalithaa on the NDA government was best described by Vajpayee while addressing an election rally on September 1999 at the Marina beach in Chennai in the following words:"I have suffered a lot in politics. I was jailed by Indira Gandhi during emergency. But I did not suffer like how I suffered in the last 17 months. Jayalalithaa was coming up with new demands every day and when I woke up I did not know that whether I will be the Prime Minister for the whole day".

Jayalalithaa joined with the Congress for the 1999 Lok Sabha elections and won 10 seats. Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee visited Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence to clinch the deal. 

Legal trouble:

Meanwhile Jayalalithaa's legal troubles began when the DMK government on December 7, 1996 arresting on corruption charges. She was jailed for 28 days and came out on bail on January 3, 1997. The DMK government constituted special courts to try these corruption cases and Jayalalithaa was convicted in two corruption cases on February 2, 2000. On that day angry AIADMK cadres torched a bus carrying college girls in Dharmapuri in which three girls died.

Jayalalithaa was not able to contest the 2001 assembly elections because of her conviction but her party won a comfortable victory in that polls. Jayalalithaa became CM but was unseated by a ruling of a five judge constitution bench on September 21, 2001 on the ground that a person who can't become an MLA cannot become a CM. However Jayalalithaa won her appeal in the Madras High Court and bounced back as CM in March 2002.

During her 2002 - 2006 stint as CM she dismissed over 1.5 lakh government employees when they went on a strike demanding the restoration of certain benefits which the government had snatched
away. She arrested Kanchi seer Shankaracharya on a murder charge. She brought in anti conversion law in 2003 but later withdrew it. She also banned the sacrifice of animals in temple rituals. Jayalalithaa received a drubbing in 2004 Lok Sabha elections when the DMK - Congress alliance swept away all the 39 seats in the state.


She filed hundreds of defamation cases against media persons and political rivals and she did not allow even a bit of criticism about her government from any quarters.

In the 2006 elections AIADMK got defeated but secured a decent 60 seats in the assembly and Jayalalithaa became leader of opposition. The period 2006 - 2011 went on without much fanfare. She was able to win 9 seats in 2009 Lok Sabha elections. In 2011 Jayalalithaa came back to power with 160 MLAs. Another important aspect of her tenure is frequent shuffling of her ministers. In the 2011 - 2016 period there were over 20 shuffling and 13 ministers were dropped once and brought back and 17 ministers were dropped twice and brought back and this tamasha continued till the announcement of poll dates in March 2016. In fact the Suprme Court recently came down heavily on Jayalalithaa in a petition challenging the defamation cases filed by her by saying these words:"You are in public life and you should take criticism". Jayalalithaa had filed 213 defamation cases against media persons and her political rivals. But the biggest fall came for Jayalalithaa when a special court in
Bangalore on September 27, 2014 convicted her to four years jail term in a disproportionate assets case and imposed Rs.100 crore fine.

Jayalalithaa along with close aide Sasikala and two others spent 20 days in the Parapanahara prison, Bangalore and came out on a bail granted by the Supreme Court on October 17 2014.
She won her appeal in the Karanataka High Court on May 2015 and became CM on May 22. To the surprise of everyone Jayalalithaa by steering her party alone and without any alliance partners retained her power in the May 2016 assembly polls by winning 131 seats.

Suddenly Jayalalithaa took ill on September 22, night and got admitted in to the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai.

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