The Web


Home > News > Elections 2004 > Special

The Rediff Special / A Ganesh Nadar

May 06, 2004

Full Name
Jayalalitha Jayaram or J Jayalalithaa as she prefers to be called now.

Wasn't she a famous actress?
Yes she was. In her time, she was the top Tamil movie heroine. She was very much in demand and acted with all the top heroes. What was in her favour was that the other heroines before her were all middle-aged and sari-clad. She was the first Tamil heroine who appeared in skirts. She acted in many movies with Sivaji Ganesan and M G Ramachandran, who would found the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (now called the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). Her best-known Hindi film is Izzat; her co-star was the BJP candidate from Sikar, Dharmendra.

So how did she get into politics?
When MGR founded the ADMK, he invited her to join the party. She was a member of the committee that was formed to oversee the midday meal scheme that MGR had started in schools. Next, she became a Rajya Sabha member and later, propaganda secretary of the party. She was a successful politician in that she could draw huge crowds. At one point, MGR removed her from all posts in the party, but before his death in 1987, he once more made her propaganda secretary.

How did she become the AIADMK leader?
When MGR died, his wife Janaki became the chief minister. Claiming she was MGR's true heir, Jayalalithaa split the party. In the ensuing assembly election, her faction won 23 seats, while Janaki's faction won just one seat. Janaki soon retired from public life, leaving Jayalalitha the undisputed leader of the AIADMK.

Today, everybody in her party, including senior ministers, fall at her feet at every given opportunity. She is absolutely in charge and there is no second-rung.

When did she become chief minister?
In the 1991 election, the AIADMK and Congress tied up. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi resulted in a wave of sympathy for the Congress and anger at the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which was a supporter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi. She became the state's chief minister.

What next?
As chief minister, she earned a reputation for financial controversy. The wedding of her best friend Sasikala Natarajan's nephew was estimated to have cost Rs 1 billion or Rs 100 crores. In the subsequent election in 1996, the AIADMK was virtually wiped out in the assembly election, winning just 4 out of 234 seats.

The DMK registered 46 cases of corruption against her. Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were even jailed for a few days. But even as the cases dragged on over the years, she wasn't proven guilty in a single case.

What made her famous in 1998-99
When the BJP formed a government for only the second time in its history (the first time was in 1996, when the BJP government lasted 13 days in office), Jayalalithaa initially supported the party and helped it come to power at the Centre. But somewhere down the line, she had a famous tea party with Sonia Gandhi and changed her mind about supporting the BJP.

In April 1998, a vote of confidence was held and the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was defeated by just one vote!

In the 1999 Lok Sabha election, Jayalalithaa allied with the Congress. But that alliance suffered a black eye, as the BJP swept back to power.

She has flip-flopped quite a bit, hasn't she?
You bet. In 1991, she was allied with the Congress.

In 1998, she ditched the Congress and joined the BJP bandwagon, when that party formed the government at the Centre.

In early 1999, she hosted a tea party for Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and then withdrew support to the BJP government.

Alas for her, the BJP and its allies returned to power again, leaving her in the wilderness.

But in 2001, she returned to power in Tamil Nadu and almost immediately began making overtures to the BJP, much to the discomfiture of the other parties.

So with whom is she today?
Jayalithaa (she added an extra 'a' in 2001) now supports the BJP-led NDA in the 2004 election.

As chief minister, what has she done?
She banned lottery tickets, fired 200,000 government servants at one go, stopped free power to farmers, increased the price of rice in the ration shops, cancelled ration cards of all those who earn more than Rs 5,000 per month, hiked power and bus charges, passed a law seeking to curb religious conversions, and banned animal sacrifices in temples.

But after the 2004 Lok Sabha election were announced, she allowed animal sacrifices in temples and supplied free power to farmers.

She dislikes criticism and has filed many defamation suits against various newspapers. She tried to arrest the top brass of The Hindu, one of India's most respected newspapers, prompting Prime Minister Vajpayee to condemn the act.

Image: Rahil Shaikh

Article Tools
Email this article
Top emailed links
Print this article
Write us a letter
Discuss this article

Related Stories

'Rajni a believer in Hindutva'

People Who Read This Also Read

'Vajpayee will not be PM again'

I am unstoppable: Sajjan Kumar

Horror story of Indians in Iraq

India Votes 2004 | The Rediff Specials

Share your comments

 What do you think about the story?

Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 20

Sub: congraulation

hello madam, l like you very much. i like your braveness and hope. this election also your are c.m. pls madam reply for me ask ...

Posted by priya

Sub: It is a setback for the state

2006 election results shows how the people are concerned about the development of the state and country as well. Announcement of free television wins in ...

Posted by Sivakumar

Sub: may GOD save TN

TN is perhaps the most corrupt state now (May be Laloo can take that credit). Apart from banning religious conversions (which someone pointed out that ...

Posted by Ram

Sub: Arajagam or Iron lady?

In my opinion JJ should not be called the iron lady. She is known for her arrogance and hasty decisions. We cannot forget that we ...

Posted by P. T Ramkumar

Sub: Without a parrallel in the political history.

A cursory look at the political scenario of not only of just Bharat Varsh but the world at large will hardly yield a parrallel that ...

Posted by chanakya


Copyright © 2004 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.