Jayalaithaa — the political phoenix

PTI Chennai | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on May 23, 2015

Known for her resilience and determination to fight personal and political adversities, AIADMK chief J Jayaalithaa has fought and won many legal tangles in her chequered political career and returned at the helm again.

Caught in the disproportionate assets case that had threatened to jeopardise her political career, the ‘Comeback Queen’ has returned at a time when her party is readying for next year’s Assembly polls and put a spanner in the Opposition’s strategy.

The acquittal of Jayalalithaa, who was at the helm during 1991-96, 2001-2006 and May 2011-September 2014, in the Rs 66.66 crore disproportionate assets case by the Karnataka High Court on May 11 had set the ball rolling for her return to the seat of power at Fort St.George.

Jayalalithaa has overcome legal tangles in the past also.

In the 2001, the TANSI land case had derailed her continuation as Chief Minister.

In September last, the AIADMK chief’s conviction in the assets case had led to her automatic disqualification due to a Central legislation which she had vowed to face it legally.

Her return to office now comes less than a fortnight after she was acquitted in the disproportionate assets case.

From a ‘hesitant’ teen starlet who made her cinema debut in CV Sridhar-directed ‘Vennira Aadai,’ in 1956, Jayalalithaa rose in ranks as a popular heroine, pairing opposite among others, then matinee idol MG Ramachandran (MGR).

Having done nearly 30 films together, their onscreen bonding stretched to politics also, with Jayalalithaa becoming the former Chief Minister’s protege after he founded AIADMK.

Starting off as the party’s Propaganda Secretary, she impressed Ramachandran, especially with her English language skills, and soon earned a ticket to Rajya Sabha, and with that, a stronger foothold in politics.

Jayalalithaa had split the party after being humiliated during Ramachandran’s funeral procession.

But she later united the different factions following an ugly incident involving her party’s arch rival DMK in the State Assembly, when she was allegedly insulted on the floor of the House. She was the Opposition Leader then.

In 1991, she stitched up an alliance with Congress and a sympathy wave spurred by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi landed her party a landslide victory, with Jayalalithaa making her debut as Chief Minister.

However, the same period turned out to be her undoing with her aide Sasikala’s family allegedly calling the shots in all aspects of government. The extravaganza publicly displayed during the marriage of her foster son V N Sudhakaran (now disowned) attracted strong criticism.

AIADMK lost power in 1996 when the then DMK-TMC combine, backed by the support of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, in the face of corruption charges against the Jayalalithaa-led party, swept the elections.

She was subsequently arrested and a number of cases, including the disproportionate assets case, were registered against her.

Unperturbed by the electoral loss, she later allied with AB Vajpayee but later brought down his party-led government in 1999, taking her political profile to the national spectrum.

Jayalalithaa steered her party to power once again in 2001, and did not allow the brief derailment due to conviction in TANSI case affect the party’s fortunes, as she installed O Panneerselvam in her place.

After securing an acquittal later, she took over the reins from him.

Hailed as ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ (Revolutionary Leader), Jayalalithaa proved wrong all calculations of DMK retaining power in 2011 when she led her party to a fantastic victory by forming a rainbow coalition comprising DMDK and Left parties.

The M Karunanidhi-led DMK could only muster 23 MLAs at the hustings.

Since then the Jayalalithaa juggernaut has been rolling on unchallenged in Tamil Nadu as the AIADMK has not only won all bypolls and the local body elections, but also stamped its superiority in last year’s Lok Sabha polls as well.

Jayalalithaa-steered AIADMK won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the State, giving ample indications of her popularity amid a perceived Narendra Modi wave in Tamil Nadu.

With the Opposition not yet geared up, DMK chief Karunanidhi had indicated that only by cobbling an alliance they could challenge the AIADMK in the 2016 Assembly polls.

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Published on May 23, 2015
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