As in life, so in death, Jayalalithaa Jayaraman, Tamil Nadu’s six-time chief minister, was an enigma at a personal as well as at a political level.
Popularly referred to as Amma, Puratchi Thalaivi, Thanga Gopuram, Thanga Chillai and Thanga Tharagai (Golden Maiden) by members and supporters of her All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party, she was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu from 1991 to 1996, again in 2001, then from 2002 to 2006,from 2011 to 2014 and from 2015 to 2016.
Before her entry into politics in the 1980s, she was an actress who appeared in 140 films, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi.
As a leading actress in films from 1961 to 1980, she was considered both prolific and versatile, performing in different genres and essaying a wide variety of characters. She was also known for her dancing skills and at one time was referred to as the “Queen of Tamil Cinema”.
As an actress, she frequently worked with another actor-turned-politician, M. G. Ramachandran (MGR). This led to wide speculation that Jayalalitha was introduced to politics by MGR. However, she has denied these claims and stated that she had entered politics by choice.
She was a member of the Rajya Sabha, elected from Tamil Nadu, from 1984 to 1989. Soon after the death of MGR, Jayalalitha proclaimed herself his political heir. She was Tamil Nadu’s second woman female chief minister after Janaki Ramachandran.
She also was the first incumbent chief minister in India to be disqualified from holding office due to conviction in a disproportionate assets case on September 27, 2014, but was acquitted on May 11, 2015 by the Karnataka High Court, and resumed as chief minister on May 23, 2015.
She was subsequently re-elected to the Tamil Nadu State Assembly by the electorate of the Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency of North Chennai in a by-election held on June 7, 2015.
Jayalalitha was born on February 24, 1948 at Melukote, in Pandavapura taluka, Mandya district, then in Mysore State (now Karnataka) to Jayaram and Vedavalli in a Tamil Iyengar family.
Jayalalitha was given her grandmother’s name Koamalavalli at the time of birth. As per Brahmin custom, two names are given – one ancestral grandmother name and other being personal name. The personal name Jayalalitha was adopted at the age of one for the purpose of using the same in school and colleges. It was derived from the names of two houses where she resided in Mysore. One was “Jaya Vilas” and the other “Lalitha Vilas”.
Her paternal grandfather, Narasimhan Rengachary, was in the service of the Mysore kingdom as a surgeon, and served as the court physician to Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV of Mysore.
Her maternal grandfather, Rangasamy Iyengar, moved to Mysore from Srirangam to work with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
He had one son and three daughters – Ambujavalli, Vedavalli and Padmavalli. Vedavalli was given in marriage to Narasimhan Rengachary’s son, Jayaram.
The couple Jayaram-Vedvalli had two children: a son Jayakumar and a daughter, Jayalalitha. Her mother, her relatives and later co-stars and friends referred her as Ammu.
Jayalalitha’s father, Jayaram, was a lawyer, but never worked and squandered most of the family money. He died when Jayalalitha was two years old.
The widowed Vedavalli returned to her father’s home in Bangalore in 1950. Vedavalli learnt shorthand and typewriting to take up a clerical position to help support the family in 1950.
Vedavalli’s younger sister Ambujavalli had moved to Madras and was working as an air hostess since 1948 and was also acting in dramas and films using the screen name Vidyaavathy since 1951.
After a while, on insistence of Ambujavalli, Jayalalithaa’s mother Vedavalli also relocated to Madras and stayed with her sister from 1952.
Vedavalli worked in a commercial firm in Madras and began dabbling in acting under screen name Sandhya. Jayalalitha remained under care of her mother’s sister Padmavalli and with maternal grandparents from 1950 to 1958 in Mysore.
While still in Bangalore, Jayalalithaa attended Bishop Cotton Girls’ School.In later interviews, Jayalalithaa spoke emotionally about how she missed her mother growing up in a different city, but visited her during the summer vacations.
After her aunt Padmavalli’s marriage in 1958, Jayalalitha moved to Chennai and began to live with her mother. She completed her childhood education at Sacred Heart Matriculation School (popularly known as Church Park Presentation Convent or Presentation Church Park Convent) in Chennai.
She excelled at school and was offered a government scholarship to pursue further education.
She won Gold State Award for coming first in 10th standard in not just her school but also in Tamil Nadu.
She appears not to have accepted the admission offered to her at Stella Maris College, Chennai.
She was fluent in several languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam and English.
In Chennai, Jayalalitha trained in classical music, western classical piano, and various forms of classical dance, including Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, Manipuri and Kathak. She learnt Bharatnatyam and dance forms under K.J. Sarasa. She became an accomplished dancer and gave her debut dance performance at the Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Mylapore in May 1960.
The chief guest at the Arangetram was famed actor Shivaji Ganesan, who expressed wish that Jayalalitha become a film star in the future.
In the mid-1960s, Shankar Giri, the son of the former Indian President V. V. Giri, saw her essay a small role in the English play Tea Houses of August Moon and was impressed. Shankar Giri approached her mother Sandhya and told he wanted to cast her daughter in an English film called The Epistle. Sandhya reluctantly agreed with the condition that shooting should be held only during weekends or school holidays.
Sandhya had acted in the 1964 Tamil film Karnan, produced and directed by Kannada film-maker B. R. Panthulu. Jayalalithaa accompanied her mother to a party related to the film and was spotted by Panthulu, who then decided to cast her opposite Kalyankumar in the Kannada movie Chinnada Gombe. He promised to finish all shooting within two months in order not to interfere with her education. Jayalalithaa started acting and she was paid Rs. 3,000. Panthulu kept his promise and completed shooting in six weeks.
Jayalalithaa had forgotten all about films after acting in her Kannada debut film, but it became a blockbuster in 1964 and she became a well-known face.
She made her debut as the lead actress in Kannada films while still in school, age 15, in Chinnada Gombe (1964). She also appeared in a dance sequence of a song named “Malligeya Hoovinantha” in the movie Amarashilpi Jakannachari (1964).
She made her debut in Tamil theatre in April 1964, when she played a sales girl in the drama named Undersecretary. Parthasarthy and Sandhya were the lead characters, while Jayalalitha and Cho Ramaswamy were paired together and A. R. Srinivasan was also involved. The play was based on the lives of middle aged couple and Jayalalitha played the character of a sales girl in the drama. Her performance led Parthasarthy to make her lead heroine in a drama named Malathy.
Meanwhile, the films she had shot during her vacation in April-May 1964 – Chinnada Gombe and Manushulu Mamathalu – became blockbusters. By end of 1965 she had become popular among film producers and directors. She was approached by C. V. Sridhar for her Tamil film debut as well. Between 1964 and 1966 she did around 35 shows of drama named Malathy and later discontinued as she became very busy in films.
It was during the year 1964, financial debts had increased of Sandhaya and she suggested her daughter to make use of the increasing film offers coming her way.
Jayalalithaa’s debut in Tamil cinema was the leading role in Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by C. V. Sridhar. She made her debut in Telugu films as lead actress in Manushulu Mamathalu opposite Akkineni Nageshwara Rao. Her last Telugu release was also opposite Akkineni Nageswara Rao in the film Nayakudu Vinayakudu, which was released in 1980.
She was the first heroine to appear in skirts in Tamil films. She acted in one Hindi film called Izzat, with Dharmendra as her male co-star in 1968.
She starred in 28 box-office hit films with M.G. Ramachandran between 1965 and 1973.The first with MGR was B.R. Panthalu’s Aayirathil Oruvan in 1965 and their last film together was Pattikaattu Ponnaiya in 1973.
She became a regular heroine for production house Devar films from 1966.
Jayalalithaa claimed that M G Ramachandran, who had been chief minister for the state since 1977, was instrumental in introducing her to politics.
She joined the AIADMK in 1982. Her maiden public speech, “Pennin Perumai” (“The Greatness of a Woman”), was delivered at the AIADMK’s political conference in the same year. In 1983, she became the party’s propaganda secretary and was selected as its candidate in the by-election for the Tiruchendur Assembly constituency.
Ramachandran wanted her to be a member of the Rajya Sabha because of her fluency in English. Jayalalithaa was nominated and elected to that body in 1984 and retained her seat until 1989.
Her success as propaganda secretary caused resentment among high-ranking members of the party. By engineering a rift between her and Ramachandran, these members influenced Ramachandran to stop her writing about her personal life in a Tamil magazine.
Despite these machinations, she remained admired by the rank and file of the party.
In 1984, when Ramachandran was incapacitated due to a stroke, Jayalalithaa was said to have attempted to take over the position of chief minister or the party on the pretext that his health would prevent him from the proper execution of his duties.
She successfully led the campaign in the 1984 general elections, in which the ADMK allied with the Congress.
Following MGR’s death in 1987, the AIADMK split into two factions: one supported his widow, Janaki Ramachandran, and the other by Jayalalithaa.
Janaki was selected as chief minister on January 7, 1988 with the support of 96 members; due in part to irregularities by the Speaker P.H. Pandian, who dismissed six members to ease her victory, she won a motion of confidence in the house.
However, the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi used Article 356 of the Constitution of India to dismiss the Janaki-led government and impose president’s rule on the state.
Jayalithaa contested the subsequent 1989 elections on the basis of being MGR’s political heir.
She was elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in 1989 as a representative of the Bodinayakkanur (State Assembly Constituency). This election saw the Jayalalithaa-led faction of the AIADMK win 27 seats and Jayalalithaa became the first woman to be elected Leader of the Opposition. In February 1989, the two factions of ADMK merged and they unanimously accepted Jayalalithaa as their leader and the “Two leaves” symbol of the party was restored.
On March 25, 1989, one of the worst incidents took place inside the Tamil Nadu Assembly, when the ruling DMK party members brutally attacked and visibly molested Jayalalitha in front of the assembly speaker at the behest of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.
Jayalalitha left the assembly with her sari torn and this scene created huge sympathy wave for her. She used the incident as a parallel with the shameful disrobing of Draupadi in the epic Mahabharata.
The incident got a lot of media coverage and sympathy from the public.
During the 1989 general elections, the ADMK allied with the Congress party and had a significant victory. The ADMK, under her leadership, won the by-elections in Marungapuri, Madurai East and Peranamallur assembly constituencies.
In 1991, following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi days before the elections, her alliance with the Indian National Congress enabled her to ride the wave of sympathy that gave the coalition victory. The AIDMK alliance with the Congress won 225 out of the 234 seats contested and won all 39 constituencies in the centre.
Re-elected to the assembly, she became the first female, and the youngest, chief minister, of Tamil Nadu, to serve a full term (June 24, 1991 to May 12, 1996).
In 1992, her government introduced the “Cradle Baby Scheme”. At that time the ratio of male to female in some parts of Tamil Nadu was skewed by the practice of female infanticide and the abortion of female foetuses.
The government established centres in some areas, these being equipped to receive and place into adoption unwanted female babies.
The scheme was extended in 2011.
Her party had 26 elected members to the assembly. Her government was the first to introduce police stations operated solely by women.
She introduced a 30 percent quota for women in all police jobs and established as many as 57 all-women police stations.
There were other all-women establishments like libraries, stores, banks and co-operative elections.
The Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK lost power in the 1996 elections, when it won 4 of the 168 seats that they contested. Jayalalithaa was herself defeated by the DMK candidate in Bargur Constituency.
The outcome has been attributed to an anti-incumbency sentiment and several allegations of corruption and malfeasance against her and her ministers.
The wedding of her foster son Sudhakaran, who married a granddaughter of the Tamil film actor Shivaji Ganesan, was held on September 7, 1995 at Chennai and was viewed on large screens by over 150,000 people.
The event holds two Guinness World Records: one is for the most guests at a wedding and the other is for being the largest wedding banquet.
Subsequently, in November 2011, Jayalalithaa told a special court than the entire Rs. 6 crore expenses associated with the wedding were paid for by the family of the bride.
There were several corruption cases filed against her by the ruling DMK government headed by Karunanidhi. Jayalalitha was arrested on December 7, 1996 and was remanded to 30-day judicial custody in connection with the Colour TV scam, which charged her with receiving kickbacks to the tune of Rs.10.13 crore.
The investigation alleged that TV dealers routed the money in the form of cheques to a relative of her close aide Sasikala, who had quoted Jayalalitha’s residence as hers.
She earlier filed an anticipatory bail in the trail court, which was rejected on December 7, 1996. She was acquitted in the case on May 30, 2000 by the trial court and the high court upheld the order of the lower court.
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. Although she appealed to the Supreme Court, having been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, the matter had not been resolved at the time of the elections.
Despite this, the AIADMK won a majority and she was installed as chief minister as a non-elected member of the state assembly on May 14, 2001.
She was also convicted in Pleasant Stay Hotel case on February 3, 2000 by a trial court to one year imprisonment. Jayalalithaa was acquitted in both the TANSI and Pleasant Stay Hotel cases on December 4, 2001.
In March 2003, Jayalalithaa assumed the position of chief minister once more, having been acquitted of some more charges by the Madras High Court. She thereafter contested a mid-term poll in the Andipatti constituency, after the sitting MLA for the seat, gave up his membership, which she won by a handsome margin.
India’s first company of female police commandos was set up in Tamil Nadu in 2003. They underwent the same training as their male counterparts, covering the handling of weapons, detection and disposal of bombs, driving, horse riding, and adventure sports.
In April 2011, the AIADMK was part of a 13-party alliance that won the 14th state assembly elections. Jayalalithaa was sworn in as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for the third time on 16 May 2011, having been elected unanimously as the leader of the AIADMK party subsequent to those elections.
On December 19, 2011, Jayalalithaa expelled her long-time close aide Sasikala Natarajan and 13 others from the AIADMK.
Most of the party members welcomed her decision, and on 2 February 2012, Tehelka magazine claimed that Natarajan and some of her relatives were conspiring to kill her by poisoning her food over a period of time.
The matter was resolved by March 31, when Sasikala Natarajan was reinstated as a party member after issuing a written apology.
On September 27, 2014, Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years in jail and fined Rs 100 crore by the Special Court in Bangalore. She was convicted in an 18-year-old disproportionate assets case that was launched by Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy (now member of Bharatiya Janata Party) on 20 August 1996 on the basis of Income Tax Department report on her.
Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Ilavarasi, her nephew and the chief minister’s disowned foster son Sudhakaran were also convicted.
They were sentenced to four years in jail and fined Rs 10 crores each. Special Judge John Michael D’Cunha convicted her of owning assets to the tune of Rs 66.65 crores (which included 2,000 acres of land, 30 kilograms of gold and 12,000 saris) disproportionate to her known sources of income during 1991-96 when she was chief minister for the first time.
The verdict was delivered by a makeshift court in the Parappana Agrahara prison complex in the presence of Jayalalithaa and the other accused. She was automatically disqualified from the post of chief minister and the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu.
O. Panneerselvam, a minister in her party, succeeded her as chief minister on September 29, 2014.
On October 17, 2014, the Supreme Court granted her two months’ bail and suspended her sentence. On May 11, 2015, a special Bench of the Karnataka High Court set aside her conviction on appeal, acquitting her and also her alleged associates.
The acquittal allowed her once again to hold office for the fifth time. She was subsequently re-elected by the electorate of the Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar (State Assembly Constituency) of North Chennai in the by-election held on 27 June 2015. In a landslide victory, she polled more than 88 per cent votes of the 74.4 per cent turnout, winning by a margin of over 1.6 lakh votes.
Jayalalithaa was again elected as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in the May 2016 elections. She retained the R. K. Nagar constituency with a margin of 39,545 votes over her DMK rival.
She was the second chief minister after M. G. Ramachandran, to serve consecutive terms.
Jayalalithaa passed away on the night of December 5, 2016 after spending 75 days in Apollo Hospitals, Chennai in critical condition.
AIADMK MLAs were summoned to the hospital to sign a declaration naming O. Panneerselvam as her successor.
The hospital officially announced the death of the chief minister at 11.30 p.m.
(This story has not been edited by PagalParrot staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)