From a hesitant teen starlet to becoming the protege of AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran aka MGR and a three-time Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa Jayaraam has traversed a long path of highs and lows in her four-decade- long political career, the latest being her conviction in an 18-year-old graft case today.
The life of the 66 year-old, who started her film career at the age of 15, has all the makings of an intense celluloid depiction. While as a student she was deeply interested in studies, she went on to become one of the most sought-after Tamil actresses.
Jayalalithaa did a total of 28 films pairing with MGR, the then Superstar of Tamil cinema and one of the most respected Indian politicians, with the bonding later stretching to politics too.
Having mentored Jayalalithaa for a while as he floated his AIADMK breaking away from the M Karunanidhi-led DMK, MGR made his protege the party’s Propaganda Secretary in 1983, a year after she joined it and later nominated her to Rajya Sabha, apparently impressed with her English communication skills. The two later reportedly had some differences but Jayalalithaa spearheaded the party’s election campaign in 1984 when MGR fell ill and was under treatment in the US.
Her moment of reckoning came in December 1987 when MGR passed away. During the funeral procession of the AIADMK founder, Jayalalithaa was allegedly humiliated by supporters of MGR’s wife Janaki, which led to a vertical split in the party.
The Jaya-faction came out triumphant in 1989 and Jayalalithaa was elected to the state Assembly for the first time, becoming the Opposition Leader. But an ugly incident involving ruling DMK is said to have prompted her to go into an aggressive mode against that party.
She then succeeded in uniting the two factions and since then has remained the undisputed leader of the party.
In 1991, she partnered with Congress and the sympathy wave that swept in the aftermath of assassination of Rajiv Gandhi catapulted her to power with an unprecedented majority. However, the 1991-96 period turned out to be her undoing with her confidante Sasikala’s family allegedly calling the shots in all aspects of government. The extravagant marriage of her foster son V N Sudhakaran attracted strong criticism.
The widespread corruption charges proved to be the death-knell for AIADMK in the 1996 elections when the DMK-TMC combine swept the assembly polls with Jayalalithaa herself being trounced by a little known DMK rival. She was arrested in 1996 and a slew of cases, including the disproportionate assets case, were registered against her.
Putting behind the electoral drubbing, she teamed up with BJP and became a part of the NDA under A B Vajpayee. However, she infamously brought down the government in 1999 during the confidence vote.
At the state level, the ‘Iron Lady’ of AIADMK stormed back to power in the 2001 elections. Even though she did not contest the assembly poll, she became the Chief Minister, but was forced to demit office after the Supreme Court struck down her appointment to the post in the wake of her conviction in TANSI land scam. Jayalalithaa installed her confidante O Panneerselvam as Chief Minister, but continued to pull the strings of administration.
After being acquitted in the TANSI case, Jayalalithaa was back in the seat of power in December 2001 before losing out to DMK in 2006 polls. In 2011, she defied all speculation of a DMK win and led her party not only to a brute majority but ensured her main arch-rival did not even become the main opposition party.
Her conviction in the Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets case today, however, dealt a crucial body blow to her political career.
Subscribe to our email newsletter.