Jayalalithaa Jayaram (born 24 February 1948, and commonly referred to as J. Jayalalitha), is the Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu, India. She was a popular film star in Indian cinema before her entry into politics, having appeared in many Tamil and Telugu films, as well as several produced in Hindi and Kannada. She is the incumbent general secretary of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). She is called Amma (‘Mother’) and Puratchi Thalaivi (‘Revolutionary Leader’) by her followers.
Although there have been claims that Jayalalithaa was introduced to politics by M. G. Ramachandran, she has denied this. She was a member of the Rajya Sabha elected from Tamil Nadu during the period of 1984–89. Soon after the death of Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa proclaimed herself as his political heir. She is the second elected female Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Early life and education
Jayalalithaa was born into a Tamil Iyengar family on 24 February 1948, at Melukote, in Pandavapura taluk of Mandya district, Mysore State (now Karnataka). In accordance with Iyengar custom, she was given two names, thus, her other name is Komalavalli. Her grandfather was in the service of the then Mysore kingdom as a surgeon, and the prefix Jaya (the victorious) was added to the names of various of her family members to reflect their association with Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar of Mysore.
Jayalalithaa’s father died when she was two years old. Her mother then moved to Bangalore, where her parents lived, with Jayalalithaa. Her mother eventually began to work as an actress in Tamil cinema, based in Chennai, having taken the screen name of Sandhya. While in Bangalore, Jayalalithaa attended Bishop Cotton Girls’ High School. 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 appears not to have accepted the admission offered to her at Stella Maris College, Chennai.
Her mother persuaded her to work in films when Jayalalithaa was still in school, taking assurances from producers that shooting would take place only during summer vacations and that she would not miss her classes. Jayalalithaa acted in an English language film, Epistle, released in 1961. She made her debut as the lead actress in Kannada films while still in school, aged 15, in Chinnada Gombe (1964).
Jayalalithaa’s debut in Tamil cinema was a role in Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by C. V. Sridhar. The following year, she made her debut in Telugu cinema with the film Manushulu Mamathalu. She was the first heroine to appear in skirts in Tamil films.
Between 1965 and 1972, she acted frequently with M. G. Ramachandran and she also worked with B. Saroja Devi in Arasa Kattalai. Her other early roles were in suspense films such as Naan and comedies such as Galatta Kalyanam.
In 1972, Jayalalithaa acted in Pattikada Pattanama opposite Sivaji Ganesan, which went onto win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil in 1973. The film also fetched her a Filmfare Award for Best Actress. Her performance in Suryakanthi and Chandradhoyam were critically acclaimed and the former won her another Filmfare Award for Best Actress in 1973. The same year she acted in the Telugu film Sri Krishna Satya and won her third Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
Her other films with Sivaji Ganesan include Galatta Kalyanam and Deiva Magan. Deiva Magan also holds the distinction of being the first Tamil film to be submitted by India for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She continued pairing up with younger actors such as Ravichandran and Jaishankar in a number of films such as Vairam, Baghdad Perazhagi.
Later Tamil films in which she acted included Kandan Karunai and she also starred in a Bollywood film. Izzat, which saw her paired with Dharmendra.Her last film was Nadhiyai Thedi Vandha Kadal which was released in 1980.
Early political career
Although there have been claims that Ramachandran, who had been Chief Minister for the state since 1977, was instrumental in introducing Jayalalithaa to politics, she has denied this.In 1982, she joined the AIADMK, which had been founded by Ramachandran. Her maiden public speech Pennin Perumai (the Pride of Women) was delivered at the political conference of the AIADMK that year. In 1983, she became Propaganda Secretary for the party and was also selected as AIADMK 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. She was nominated and elected to that body as a Member of Parliament in 1984 and retained her seat until 1989.
Rift with Ramachandran
She was successful in her role as Propaganda Secretary and this caused resentment among high-ranking members of the party. Those members engineered a rift between her and Ramachandran, among the alleged consequences of which was that Ramachandran stopped Jayalalithaa 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 attempted to take over the position of chief minister on the pretext that his health would prevent him from the proper execution of his duties. Ramachandran responded by removing her from the role of deputy leader of the party.
Ramachandran died and in 1988 the AIADMK split into two factions, with one section supporting his widow, Janaki Ramachandran, and the other favouring Jayalalithaa. Jayalalithaa claimed to be his political heir.
Leader of the Opposition, 1989
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. She has alleged that in 1989 her saree was pulled in the Assembly by a Minister.
First term as Chief Minister, 1991
In 1991, following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi just days before the elections, her alliance with the Indian National Congress enabled her to ride the wave of sympathy that gave the coalition victory.Re-elected to the assembly, she became the first elected female chief minister and the youngest ever chief minister of Tamil Nadu, serving the full tenure from 24 June 1991 to 12 May 1996. Janaki Ramachandran had technically been the first female chief minister following her husband’s death, but she was unelected. The AIADMK was reunited.
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.
The same year saw the government introduce of police stations operated solely by women. Such stations were subsequently opened in all of the districts of the state.
Loss of power, 1996
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, as well as criticism of a lavish wedding for her foster son, V. Sudhakaran.
The wedding event, in which Sudhakaran married a granddaughter of the Tamil film actor Shivaji Ganesan, was held on 7 September 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 by the family of the bride.
Second term as Chief Minister, 2001
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 14 May 2001.
Her appointment was legally voided in September 2001 when the Supreme Court ruled that she could not hold it whilst convicted of criminal acts. O. Panneerselvam, a minister in her party, was subsequently installed as the Chief Minister. However, his government was purported to have been puppeted and micro-managed by Jayalalithaa.
Subsequently, in March 2002, Jayalalithaa assumed the position of Chief Minister once more, having been acquitted of some charges by the Madras High Court. This cleared the way for her to contest a mid-term poll to the Andipatti constituency, after the elected representative for the seat, gave up his membership. Winning the election by a handsome margin, In 2002 March Jayalalithaa took over the Chief Ministership again.
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, horseriding, and adventure sports.
Third term as Chief Minister, 2011
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 19 December 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 31 March, when Natarajan was reinstated as a party member after issuing an written apology.