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J. Jayalalithaa
6th Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu
In office
23 May 2015 – 4 December 2016
Preceded byO. Panneerselvam
Succeeded byO. Panneerselvam
In office
16 May 2011 – 27 September 2014
Preceded byM. Karunanidhi
Succeeded byO. Panneerselvam
In office
2 March 2002 – 12 May 2006
Preceded byO. Panneerselvam
Succeeded byM. Karunanidhi
In office
14 May 2001 – 21 September 2001
Preceded byM. Karunanidhi
Succeeded byO. Panneerselvam
In office
24 June 1991 – 12 May 1996
Preceded byPresident's rule
Succeeded byM. Karunanidhi
Personal details
Jayalalitha [a]

(1948-02-24)24 February 1948
Mandya, Mysore, India (now in Karnataka)
Died5 December 2016(2016-12-05) (aged 68)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Resting placeMGR Memorial
Political partyAll India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
ResidenceVeda Nilayam 89, Poes Garden, Teynampet, Chennai
ProfessionActress, politician
Nickname(s)Puratchi Thalaivi, Amma

Jayaram Jayalalithaa[b] (born, 24 February 1948 – 5 December 2016) was an Indian politician and film actor who served five terms as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for over fourteen years between 1991 and 2016. From 1989 she was the general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a Dravidian party whose cadre revered her as their Amma (mother), Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader) and Thanga Tharagai (golden maiden). Her critics in the media and the opposition accused her of fostering a personality cult, and of demanding absolute loyalty from AIADMK legislators and ministers who often publicly prostrated themselves before her.[6]

Jayalalithaa first came into prominence as a leading film actress in the mid-1960s. Though she had entered the profession reluctantly, upon the urging of her mother to support the family, Jayalalithaa worked prolifically. She appeared in 140 films between 1961 and 1980, primarily in the Tamil, Telugu and Kannada languages. Jayalalithaa received praise for her versatility as an actor and for her dancing skills, earning the sobriquet "queen of Tamil cinema".[7] Among her frequent co-stars was M. G. Ramachandran, or MGR, a Tamil cultural icon who leveraged his immense popularity with the masses into a successful political career. In 1982, when MGR was chief minister, Jayalalithaa joined the AIADMK, the party he founded. Her political rise was rapid; within a few years she became AIADMK propaganda secretary and was elected to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's Parliament. After MGR's death in 1987, Jayalalithaa proclaimed herself his political heir and, having fought off the faction headed by Janaki Ramachandran, MGR's widow, emerged as the sole leader of the AIADMK. Following the 1989 election, she became Leader of the Opposition to the DMK-led government headed by Karunanidhi, her bête noire.

In 1991 Jayalalithaa became chief minister, Tamil Nadu's youngest, for the first time. She earned a reputation for a punishing work ethic and for centralising state power among a coterie of bureaucrats; her council of ministers, whom she often shuffled around, were largely ceremonial in nature. The successful cradle-baby scheme, which enabled mothers to anonymously offer their newborns for adoption, emerged during this time. Despite an official salary of only a rupee a month, Jayalalithaa indulged in public displays of wealth, culminating in a lavish wedding for her foster son in 1995. In the 1996 election, the AIADMK was nearly wiped out at the hustings; Jayalalithaa herself lost her seat. The new Karunanidhi government filed several corruption cases against her, and she had to spend time in jail. Her fortunes revived in the 1998 general election, as the AIADMK became a key component of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 1998–99 government; her withdrawal of support toppled it and triggered another general election just a year later.

The AIADMK returned to power in 2001, although Jayalalithaa was personally disbarred from contesting due to the corruption cases. Within a few months of her taking oath as chief minister, in September 2001, she was disqualified from holding office, and forced to cede the chair to loyalist O. Panneerselvam. Upon her acquittal six months later, Jayalalithaa returned as chief minister to complete her term. Noted for its ruthlessness to political opponents, many of whom were arrested in midnight raids, her government grew unpopular. Another period (2006–11) in the opposition followed, before Jayalalithaa was sworn in as chief minister for the fourth time after the AIADMK swept the 2011 assembly election. Her government received attention for its extensive social-welfare agenda, which included several subsidised "Amma"-branded goods such as canteens, bottled water and salt. Three years into her tenure, she was convicted in a disproportionate-assets case, rendering her disqualified to hold office. She returned as chief minister after being acquitted in May 2015. In the 2016 assembly election, she became the first Tamil Nadu chief minister since MGR in 1984 to be voted back into office. That September, she fell severely ill and, following 75 days of hospitalization, died on 5 December 2016 due to cardiac arrest.

Early life, education, and family[edit]

Jayalalithaa was born on 24 February 1948 at Melukote, Pandavapura taluka, Mandya district, then in Mysore State (now Karnataka) to Jayaram and Vedavalli in Tamil Brahmin Iyengar family.[8][9][10][11]

The name Jayalalitha was adopted at the age of one for the purpose of using the name 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 married to Jayaram son of Narasimhan Rengachary. The couple Jayaram-Vedvalli had two children: a son Jayakumar and a daughter, Jayalalitha.[12] Her mother, her relatives and later co-stars and friends referred her as Ammu.[13]

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.[6] Vedavalli learnt shorthand and typewriting to take up a clerical position to help support the family in 1950. Her younger sister Ambujavalli had moved to Madras, working as an air hostess. She also started acting in drama and films using the screen name Vidyavathy. On the 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 from 1953 under the screen name Sandhya. Jayalalitha remained under the care of her mother's sister Padmavalli and maternal grandparents from 1950 to 1958 in Mysore.[6][12] While still in Bangalore, Jayalalithaa attended Bishop Cotton Girls' School.[14] In later interviews, Jayalalithaa spoke emotionally about how she missed her mother growing up in a different city. She had the opportunity to visit her mother during summer holidays.[12]

After her aunt Padmavalli's marriage in 1958, Jayalalitha moved to Madras and began to live with her mother. She completed her education at Sacred Heart Matriculation School (popularly known as Church Park Presentation Convent or Presentation Church Park Convent).[12][15]

She excelled at school and was offered a government scholarship to pursue further education.[14] She won Gold State Award for coming first in 10th standard in the state of Tamil Nadu.She joined Stella Maris College however discontinued her studies due pressure from her mother and became a film actress.[16][17] She appears not to have accepted the admission offer from Stanford University.[6] She was fluent in several languages, including Tamil, Arabic, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam and English.[18]

Her brother's wedding took place at her Veda Nilayam home in Poes Gardens in 1972.[19] Her brother Jayakumar, his wife Vijayalakshmi and their daughter Deepa Jayakumar lived in Poes Garden with Jayalalitha till 1978[20] and then moved to T.Nagar Chennai at the bungalow 'Sandhya Illam' which was bought by mother of Jayalalitha.[21] Her brother was unhappy with adoption of Sudhakaran, a relative of Sasikala, as foster son of Jayalalitha.[22]

Jayalalithaa had adopted Sasikala's nephew Sudhakaran in 1995 and disowned him in 1996.[23] Her brother died in 1995 of heart attack.[24]

She was fond of having dogs as her pets.But after death of Julie, a Spitz, in 1998 she could not bear loss of death of her pets and hence discontinued keeping pet dogs at her home.[25]

Film career[edit]

Early career[edit]

In Chennai, Jayalalitha was trained in Carnatic music, western classical piano[26] and various forms of classical dance, including Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, Manipuri Kathak.[27] She learnt Bharatnatyam and dance forms under K.J.Sarasa. She had also learnt Kuchipudi under Padma Bhushan Guru Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam. She became an accomplished dancer and gave her debut dance performance at the Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Mylapore in May 1960.[28] The Chief Guest at the Arangetram was Shivaji Ganesan, who expressed wish that Jayalalitha becomes a film star in future.[29]

While a child, Jayalalithaa acted in the Kannada-language film Sri Shaila Mahathme (1961), which had Rajkumar and Krishna Kumari in lead roles.[30] She had been taken to the studio by her mother as she was shooting in the same premises for a different film. While Jayalalithaa was watching the shooting, a problem arose as the child actress playing the Goddess Parvathy in a school drama scene in the film failed to show up and the producer Neerlahalli Thalikerappa and director Aroor Pattabhi asked Sandhya if Jayalalitha could be asked to act in the dance sequence. Sandhya agreed and Jayalalitha was swiftly dressed up as Parvathy and the scene was shot in Sri Shaila Mahatme.[31]

She played Krishna in a three-minute dance sequence held on stage in the Hindi film Manmauji (1962) and danced with Kumari Naaz who played Radha. Y. G. Parthasarathy ran the drama troupe United Amateur Artistes (UAA), which staged English and Tamil plays. Soon Jayalalitha while a schoolgirl began acting in some plays of Parthasarathy along with her mother and aunt. She acted in small roles in plays such as Tea House of the August Moon and Undersecretary between 1960 and 1964.

Shankar Giri, the son of the former Indian President V. V. Giri, saw her 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.[28]

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. Since Jayalalitha would be studying for her PUC in two months' time, Sandhya had declined the offer initially.[32] Sandhya agreed when that promise was made and Jayalalithaa started acting and she was paid 3,000 (equivalent to 110,000 or US$1,600 in 2017). Panthulu kept his promise and completed shooting in six weeks. Jayalalithaa had forgotten all about films after acting in her Kannada debut film and had got ready to attend classes at Stella Maris as she had an ambition to be a lawyer. But the Kannada debut film became a blockbuster in 1964 and she became a well-known face.

Meanwhile, Jayalalithaa continued acting in Parthasarathy's plays. She played the leading role in plays such as Malathi, The Whole Truth, and the dance drama Kaveri Thanda Kalaiselvi between 1960 and 1966. She made her debut as the lead actress in Kannada films while still in school, age 15, in Chinnada Gombe (1964).[32] She also appeared in a dance sequence of a song named "Malligeya Hoovinantha" in the movie Amarashilpi Jakannachari (1964).[6]

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 Jayalaitha played character of sales girl in the drama. Her performance caused 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.[32] 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.[28] 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.[33]

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.[34] She was the first heroine to appear in skirts in Tamil films.[35] She acted in one Hindi film called Izzat, with Dharmendra as her male costar in 1968.[36] She starred in 28 box-office hit films with M.G. Ramachandran between 1965 and 1973.[37] The first with MGR was B.R. Panthalu's Aayirathil Oruvan in 1965 and their last film together was Pattikaattu Ponnaiya in 1973.[38]

Jayalalitha donated gold jewelleries she had to the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri during the 1965 Indo-Pak war.[39]

She had 11 successful releases in Tamil in 1966. In the opening credits of Arasa Katalai, for the first time her name was affixed with the phrase Kavarchi Kanni.[40] In 1967 she bought her bungalow, Veda Nilayam, in Poes Gardens for 1.32 lakh (equivalent to 50 lakh or US$70,000 in 2017).[41]

Sandow M. M. A. Chinnappa Thevar was on the lookout for a regular heroine for his production after he had fight with the actress Savithri after the release of Vetaikkaran, and he signed Jayalalitha on in 1965. She became a regular heroine for production house Devar films from 1966.[42]

Jaishankar was romantically paired with Jayalalithaa in eight Tamil films including Muthuchippi, Yaar Nee?, Nee (film), Vairam, Vandhale Magarasi, Bommalattam (1968 film) (1968), Raja Veetu Pillai and Avalukku Aayiram Kangal whereas the films Thanga Gopuram and Gowri Kalyanam had him play elder brother to her.

Jayalalitha acted in twelve films as heroine opposite N. T. Rama Rao, in Telugu – Gopaludu Bhoopaludu (1967), Chikkadu Dorakadu (1967), Tikka Shankaraiah (1968), Niluvu Dopidi (1968), Baghdad Gaja Donga (1968), Kathanayakudu (1969), Kadaladu Vadaladu (1969), Gandikota Rahasyam (1969), Ali Baba 40 Dongalu (1970), Shri Krishna Vijayam (1970), Shri Krishna Satya (1972), and Devudu Chesina Manushulu (1973). Jayalalitha had eight films with Akkineni Nageswara Rao in Telugu – Manushulu Mamathalu (1965), Aastiparulu (1966), Brahmachari (1968), Aadarsa Kutumbam (1969), Adrushtavanthalu (1969), Bharya Biddalu (1972), Premalu Pellillu (1974) and Nayakudu Vinayakudu (1980).

She also made guest appearance in Telugu film Navarthi (1966). Her films in Telugu also included two films with Krishna and one each with Sobhan Babu, Jaggayya, Ramakrishna and Haranath.[43] She has been given on-screen credit as Kalai Selvi in most of her Tamil films since 1967.[32]

Later career[edit]

List of Best Actress awards for J.Jayalalithaa
Award Wins
Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress
Tamil Nadu Cinema Fan Award for Best Actress
Filmfare Award for Best Actress - Tamil
Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Telugu
Russian Film festival
Madras Film Association Awards for Best Actress

Between 1965 and 1973, Jayalalithaa starred opposite M. G. Ramachandran in a number of successful films, including Aayirathil Oruvan, Kavalkaran, Adimai Penn, Engal Thangam, Kudiyirundha Koyil, Ragasiya Police 115 and Nam Naadu.[36][48] Cho Ramaswamy cast her in the lead role in his directorial venture Yarrukkum Vetkam Illai.[49]

She acted with Ravichandran in ten films — Gowri Kalyanam (1966), Kumari Penn (1966), Naan (1967), Magarasi (1967), Maadi Veettu Mappilai (1967), Panakkara Pillai (1968), Moondru Yezhuthu (1968), Andru Kanda Mugam (1968), Avalukku Aayiram Kangal and Baghdad Perazhagi (1974).[32] In 1972, she acted opposite Sivaji Ganesan in Pattikada Pattanama, which went on to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil in 1973.

In 1973, she acted in Sri Krishna Satya, which won her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress in Telugu.[50] Her other films with Sivaji Ganesan include Galatta Kalyanam and Deiva Magan; the latter holds the distinction of being the first Tamil film to be submitted by India for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.[51]

Jayalalitha was paired opposite Sivaji Ganesan in 17 films. She acted in six films with R. Muthuraman as a romantic leading pair – Dhikku Theriyadha Kaattil, Thirumangalyam, Kanavan Manaivi, Avandhan Manidhan, Suryagandhi, Anbu Thangai[32] and Muthuraman played supporting roles in Kannan En Kadhalan, Major Chandrakanth, Naan (1967 film), En Annan, Adi Parashakti, Thaer Thiruvizha, Dharmam Engey, Chitra Pournami and Oru Thaai Makkal. She made her debut in Malayalam with Jesus (1973).[52] Her 100th film was Thirumangalyam (1974), directed by A. Vincent.[53]

She was romantically paired opposite Sivakumar in Kandan Karunai and Sri Krishna Leela. Sivakumar played supporting roles in Shakti Leelai, Yarrukum Vetkam Ilali, Thirumangalyam, Annaivelakanni, Kavalkaran, Motoram Sunderapillai and Ganga Gowri.[54]

The heroes of her films never objected to the title of the film being conferred on the female lead played by Jayalalitha. Adimai Penn, Kanni Thaai, and Kannan En Kadhalan had Ramachandran as the lead male hero but the story and the title was built around the character played by Jayalalithaa. Similarly, Engerindo Vandhaal, Sumathi En Sundari, Paadhukaappu and Anbai Thedi had Sivaji Ganeshan as the male lead but the title and the story was built around her character. She did many female-centric films where the story revolved on her character, such as Vennira Adai, Yaar Nee?, Kumari Penn, Nee, Gowri Kalyanam, Magaraasi, Muthu Chippi, Thanga Gopuram, Avalukku Ayiram Kangal, Annamitta Kai, Vandhaale Magaraasi, Suryagandhi, Thirumangalyam, Yarukkum Vetkam Illai, and Kanavan Manaivi.

She received the title "Nadippuku Ilakkium Vahuthuvar" and also won Tamil Nadu Cinema Fan Award for Best Actress for her 100th film in 1974.[55] Her last film in Tamil was Nadhiyai Thedi Vandha Kadal (1980).[36] Her last film as the heroine was Nayakudu Vinayakudu in Telugu,[56] which became the highest grosser of the year in Telugu.

Her successful Kannada films include Badukuva Daari (1966), Mavana Magalu (1965), Nanna Kartavya (1965), Chinnada Gombe (1964) and Mane Aliya (1964). Jayalalithaa holds the record for having been the Tamil actress with maximum silver jubilee hits in her career – 85 hits of 92 Tamil films as main female lead heroine and in addition she also has all 28 films in Telugu as silver jubilee hits.[33] She was the highest paid Indian actress from 1965–1980. She made guest appearances in nine films and six of her films were dubbed into Hindi. She had 119 box office hits between 1961 and 1980, of the total 125 films she did as the main female lead. She made a brief appearance in 1992's Neenga Nalla Irukkanum.[57]

Jayalalithaa won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress for Thanga Gopuram in 1971, Raman Thediya Seethai in 1972, Suryagandhi in 1973, Thirumangalyam in 1974, Yarukkum Vetkam Illai in 1975.[58] She acted in mythological films like Kandan Karunai, Aadhi Parashakti, Shri Krishna Satya, Shri Krishna Vijayam, Shri Rama Katha, Shri Krishna Leela, Shakti Leelai, Ganga Gowri, Annai Velankanni, and Jesus. Her period dramas include Ayirathil Oruvan, Neerum Neruppum, Mani Magudam, Adimai Penn, Ali Baba 40 Dongalu, Arasa Katalai, and Baghdad Perazhagi.

She acquired the reputation of being a multi-faceted actor equally comfortable in fantasy and mythological genres as well as in modern social dramas[59] and hence in 1969, in Tamil Conference, she was given the tag of Kaveri Thandha Kalai Selvi.[60]

She and Saroja Devi have been cited as the first female superstars of Tamil Cinema. She did double roles in eight films.[61]

She received Special Award from Filmfare for her performances in 'Chandhrodhayam', 'Adimai Penn' and 'Engirundho Vandhaal' in the years 1966, 1969 and 1970 as the Filmfare Award for Best Actress was introduced only in 1972.[62] Her performance in Pattikada Pattanama, Suryagandhi were critically acclaimed and won her consecutive Filmfare Award for Best Actress in 1972 and 1973 respectively.

From 1968-73, Jaya at peak of career took interviews and wrote columns in the magazines like Bommai. She wrote a column-Ennanga Selar in magazine Tughlaq in the 1970s. She also wrote short story "Oravin Kaidhigal" for the magazine Kalki, Manadhdai Thotaa Malargal for Thaai magazine in the early 1980s etc.[63] She wrote about her own life in a serialised memoir in the Tamil weekly magazine Kumudam.[64]

In 1980, she decided to voluntarily decline any new film offers. The journalist Brian Laul wrote an article specifying Jayalalitha was trying for a comeback but was not being offered any roles. Jayalalitha chose to respond to him by writing a letter, in which she mentioned that she was not struggling to make any comeback and that she turned down the offer from producer Balaji to star in Billa opposite Rajnikanth. She added she wanted to pursue other interests and was not interested in pursuing her film career any further.[65]

Her closest friends from film industry included Manorama,[66] Cho Ramaswamy,[67] Rajasree, Jamuna, Saroja Devi, Kumari Sachu, Anjali Devi, Sowcar Janaki, Sukumari,[68] Ravichandran, R.Muthuraman, Nagesh, M.N.Nambiar, Venniradai Nirmala, S.A.Asokan, Jaishankar, V.K.Ramaswamy, Major Sunnderajan, P.Susheela, Sheela, M.S.Vishwanathan, L.R.Eshwari, R.S.Manohar.[69]

She quoted on M.G.Ramachandran, "He was a very warm and caring kind of a person. And after Mother died, he replaced her in my life. He was everything to me. He was mother, father, brother, friend, philosopher, guide. Everything. He sort of took over my life." In many of her interviews she often said she entered films on being asked by her mother and entered politics on request by M.G.Ramachandran.[70]

Political career[edit]

Early political career[edit]

Jayalalithaa denied claims that MGR, who had been chief minister for the state since 1977, was instrumental in introducing her to politics.[6] In 1982, she joined the AIADMK, which was founded by MGR.[71] Her maiden public speech, "Pennin Perumai" ("The Greatness of a Woman"), was delivered at the AIADMK's political conference in the same year[72] and was well received.Even the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Rajya Sabha member Khushwant Singh came to witness her speech which was widely acclaimed for its clarity of diction and elegant prose.[73] Her seat number in Rajya Sabha was 185,which was coincidentally the same as that of what C.N.Annadurai had while he was a member in the Rajya Sabha.[74][75] In 1983, she became propaganda secretary for the party and campaigned extensively for the party candidate in the by-election for the Tiruchendur Assembly constituency.[71]

Jayalalithaa with then prime minister Manmohan Singh

MGR wanted her to be a member of the Rajya Sabha because of her fluency in English.[76] Indira Gandhi lauded Jayalalitha for the various speeches she made on issues including the one on internal security in Rajya Sabha.[77] Jayalalithaa was elected to that body in 1984 and retained her seat until 1989.[78] Her success in her role as propaganda secretary caused resentment among high-ranking members of the party. By engineering a rift between her and MGR, these members influenced MGR 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.[6] She was given key responsibilities, including in the implementation of the landmark noon-meals scheme when M.G.Ramachandran was the CM and this taught her lessons in welfare politics. Later when MGR fell ill, she campaigned extensively for the party before the 1984 election.[79]

In 1984, when MGR 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.[80] She successfully led the campaign in the 1984 general elections, in which the ADMK allied with the Congress.[78] Following his death in 1987, the AIADMK split into two factions: one supported his widow, Janaki Ramachandran This faction was called AIADMK(JA)and the other favoured Jayalalithaa called AIADMK(J) .Jayalalithaa faction was supported by senior leaders like V.R. Nedunchezhiyan, Aranganayagam, KKSSRR Ramachandran, Thirunavukarasar. Janaki was selected as the Chief Minister on 7 January 1988 with the support of 96 members; due in part to irregularities by speaker P.H. Pandian, who dismissed six members to ease her victory, she won a motion of confidence in the house. However, Rajiv Gandhi used Article 356 of the Constitution of India to dismiss the Janaki-led government and impose president's rule on the state.[6][81][82]

At the age of 41, Jayalalithaa entered the Assembly successfully contesting the subsequent 1989 elections on the basis of being MGR's political heir.[83]

Leader of the Opposition, 1989[edit]

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.[28]

On 25 March 1989, as claimed by the party and a section of the members present in the assembly, amidst heavy violence inside the house among the ruling DMK party members and the opposition, Jayalilatha was brutally attacked by the ruling DMK members in front of the assembly speaker on the behest of Chief Minister Karunanidhi.[84] Jayalalitha left the Assembly with her torn saree -drawing a parallel with the shameful disrobing of Draupadi in the epic Mahabharata.[85][86][87][88][89] At the peak of the situation, Jayalalithaa was about to leave the house, she vowed to not enter the house "until as a Chief Minister".[90][91] In spite of some sections of media terming it as a theatrics, it received a lot of media coverage and sympathy from the public.[92][93][94] During the 1989 general elections, the ADMK allied with the Congress party and was handed a significant victory. The ADMK, under her leadership, also won the by-elections in Marungapuri, Madurai East and Peranamallur assembly constituencies.[78]

First term as Chief Minister, 1991[edit]

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.[95][96] The ADMK alliance with the Congress won 225 out of the 234 seats contested and won all 39 constituencies in the centre.[78] Re-elected to the assembly, she became the state's youngest chief minister, and the first woman to serve a full term, serving from 24 June 1991 to 12 May 1996.[78][82] 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.[97] Her party had 226 elected members to the assembly. Her government was the first to introduce police stations operated solely by women. She introduced 30% 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.[98] She began to be referred as Thanga Gopuram, Thanga Chillai and Thanga Tharagai (Golden Maiden) by her followers.[99]

She first invited Ford Motor Company to establish business in Tamil Nadu in 1995.This was followed by numerous companies setting up factories here especially from automobiles sector which included Hyundai Motor, BMW, Daimler, Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Wright, Yamaha. Due to this, Chennai began to be called as the Detroit of India under her first term.[100] Royal Enfield made significant expansion in Tamil Nadu and apart from Ashok Leyland, TAFE and TVS Motors became key players in Tamil Nadu.

Loss of power, 1996[edit]

The Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK lost power in the 1996 elections, when it won 4 of the 168 seats that they contested.[101] Jayalalithaa was herself defeated by the DMK candidate in Bargur Constituency.[102] The outcome has been attributed to an Anti-incumbency sentiment and several allegations of corruption and malfeasance against her and her ministers.[96][101] The wedding event of her foster son Sudhakaran, who 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.[6][103][104] Subsequently, in November 2011, Jayalalithaa told a special court than the entire 6 crore (equivalent to 25 crore or US$3.5 million in 2017) expenses associated with the wedding were paid by the family of the bride.[105]

Her fortunes revived in the 1998 general election, as the AIADMK became a key component of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 1998–99 government; her withdrawal of support toppled it and triggered another general election just a year later.

There were several corruption cases filed against her by the ruling DMK government headed by Karunanidhi. Jayalalitha was arrested on 7 December 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 10.13 crore (equivalent to 43 crore or US$6.0 million in 2017). The investigation alleged that the amount through the TV dealers were routed in the form of cheques to a relative of Sasikala, who had quoted Jayalalitha's residence as hers. She earlier filed an anticipatory bail in the trial court, which was rejected on 7 December 1996.[106] She was acquitted in the case on 30 May 2000 by the trial court and the High Court upheld the order of the lower court.[107][108]

Though Sudhakaran was adopted by Jayalalitha as her foster son in 1995, when she became aware that Sudhakaran began to interfere in her financial affairs and that he took money without intending to repay, she disowned him in 1996 within one year of adoption.[109]

When questioned on her views on Sasikala, Jayalalithaa quoted in 1996 "Sasikala never functioned as extra constitutional power centre. Calling her defacto chief minister is nonsense. She is not interested in politics and I have no intention to bring her into politics." It annoyed her when people said Sasikala was behind many of her political decisions and termed such news as rubbish and insult to her position as chief minister.[110]

Second term as Chief Minister, 2001[edit]

Jayalalithaa was barred from standing as a candidate in the 2001 elections because she was 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 was not resolved at the time of the elections.[111] 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.[82] She was also convicted in Pleasant Stay hotel case on 3 February 2000 by a trial court to one-year imprisonment. Jayalalithaa was acquitted in both the TANSI and Pleasant Stay Hotel cases on 4 December 2001 and the Supreme Court upheld the order of the High Court on 24 November 2003.[112][113]

Jayalalitha receiving Prime Minister Modi at Chennai airport

The AIADMK returned to power in 2001, although Jayalalithaa was personally disbarred from contesting due to the corruption cases. Within a few months of her taking oath as chief minister, in September 2001, she was disqualified from holding office, and forced to cede the chair to loyalist O. Panneerselvam. Upon her acquittal six months later, Jayalalithaa returned as chief minister to complete her term. Noted for its ruthlessness to political opponents, many of whom were arrested in midnight raids, her government grew unpopular.

Her appointment was legally voided in September 2001 when the Supreme Court ruled that she could not hold it whilst convicted of criminal acts.[111] 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.[82][114]

Subsequently, in March 2003, Jayalalithaa assumed the position of Chief Minister once more, having been acquitted of some charges by the Madras High Court.[115] This cleared the way for her to contest a mid-term poll to the Andipatti constituency, after the sitting MLA for the seat, gave up his membership, which she won by a handsome margin.[116]

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.[117] The government led by her in 2003 banned sale of all lotteries, including online, within the territory of the state, despite the risk of the state losing revenue. She gave orders to special task force headed by K.Vijaykumar[118] to conduct secret operation to capture and kill the dreaded poacher and sandalwood smuggler Veerappan by entering Karnataka.[119] In 2004 she declared eliminating Verappan aa biggest achievement of her government and quoted ""My only brief to them was capture Veerappan dead or alive. After that I never interfered. I left them to work out their own strategies and this paid off."[120] She began to be referred as 'People's CM'[Makallin Mudhalvar] and Iron Lady of India by end of this term.[121] In this term she launched Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) scheme in 2001 to rejuvenate water sources and this improved ground water levels in the parched southern state and this idea was replicated by various states and even by the Centre. She also started the Veeranam project to deliver water to the dry metropolis of Chennai.[122] Doctor Manmohan Singh frequently praised Jayalalithaa for her administrative skills, mid-day meal schemes and efforts for gender empowerment.[123]

Her administrative abilities were notable in her handling of events following the tsunami that hit Tamil Nadu on 26 December 2004. Jayalalithaa announced a Rs 153.37 crore relief package, divided into a general package and a separate one for fishermen. She announced that affected families would get Rs 1 lakh as compensation for every member lost, along with one dhoti, one sari, two bedsheets, 60 kg of rice, three litres of kerosene, and Rs 1,000 in cash for groceries and that furthermore, Rs 1,000 was to be given for purchase of utensils, Rs 2,000 so they could put up accommodation. Per family, and there were about one lakh families in all, the package would cost about Rs 5,000. The fishermen also received an extra Rs 65 crore meant to cover gill nets and boats. It was only a matter of hours before Nagapattinam had its power supply back. With the state working on disaster management for over seven years, response time had been reduced significantly; mobile cranes and ambulances were on patrol. The government entrusted district administration with rehabilitation of affected families, and when they were found to be incompetent, she reshuffled or sacked officers immediately. Jayalalithaa even extended help to the Sri Lankan government by instating officers to guide the island nation in the process of rehabilitation. Her administrative style was uncompromising, whether it was banning the sale of gutkha, or mandatory installation of rainwater harvesting systems, but, she got things done on time without any ifs or buts, as was seen with the tsunami relief, ensuring people remembered not the ruthlessness of her tenure, but the help it gave them.[124][125]

But, still her party fared poorly in May 2006 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election, 2006 with Her party winning just 61 seats out of total 234 in the state elections in 2006. She won in Andipatti. Though her main opposition, DMK did not win a single party majority (96/234), DMK coalition had 162/234 seats and formed the cabinet until 2011 which she referred to as Minority DMK government.

Third term as Chief Minister, 2011[edit]

Jayalalithaa with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July 2011

After another period (2006–11) in the opposition, Jayalalithaa was sworn in as chief minister for the fourth time after the AIADMK swept the 2011 assembly election. Her government received attention for its extensive social-welfare agenda, which included several subsidised "Amma"-branded goods such as (Amma Unavagam canteens, bottled water and salt.

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.[126]

On 19 December 2011, Jayalalithaa expelled her long-time close aide Sasikala Natarajan and 13 others from the AIADMK after she became aware that Sasikala and her family were working against her.[127] Most of the party members welcomed her decision,[128] 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.[129] The matter was resolved by 31 March when Sasikala Natarajan was reinstated as a party member after issuing a written apology.[130] Sasikala in her written apology mentioned that she had no ambitions either in the party or in the government and wanted to serve Jayalalitha and added that she became aware of misdeeds done by her family members when Jayalalitha was in power.Only after Sasikala promised to be not in touch with her family members, Jayalalitha allowed Sasikala back in her house and party.[131]

In this term she announced Pension Scheme for Destitute Transgender by which those above age of 40 could get monthly pension of Rs.1,000.Her government ensured members of transgender community could enrol for education and job. [132] Beginning from 2011, every year her government gave free laptops to students who clear tenth and twelfth standard to impart digital education to rural areas.[133] Her government in 2011 decided to give four goats and a cow to each family below poverty line — mixer and grinders and fans, 3 sets of free uniforms, school, bags, notebooks, geometry boxes for all children in government schools, and cycles and laptops for Class 11 and 12 students.[134] In 2011 she launched the marriage assistance scheme wherein the female students received 4 gram gold free for use as Thirumangalyam for their marriage and cash assistance up to Rs.50,000 for undergraduate or diploma holding females.[135] There were rampant power cut issues between 2006 and 2011 while AIDMK was in opposition wherein for 10 to 15 hours there was no sup ply of electricity. However, after she regained power, between 2011 and 2015, her state government corrected all the discrepancies of previous DMK regime such that the Central Electricity Authority in 2016 said the state is expected to have 11,649 million units of surplus power.[136] Tamil Nadu became among the power surplus states while she was chief minister in this term. In this term her government ensured the wrongfully usurped property by land grabbing during 2006 to 2011 in the previous DMK regime, had been retrieved and handed over to rightful owners between 2011 and 2015.[137]

She announced in 2012, the Vision 2023 document which embodied a strategic plan for infrastructure development which included raising the per capita income of residents to $10,000 per annum, matching Human Development Index to that of developed countries by 2023, providing high-quality infrastructure all over the State, making Tamil Nadu the knowledge capital and innovation hub of India. This project had three components — Overall Vision Document, Compilation of Project Profile and Road Map. The work on this continued under her supervision until her death.[138]

Disproportionate assets case, 2014[edit]

Three years into her tenure, she was convicted in a disproportionate-assets case, rendering her disqualified to hold office.

On 27 September 2014, Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years in jail and fined 100 crore (equivalent to 114 crore or US$16 million in 2017) 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 a member of Bharatiya Janata Party) on 20 August 1996 on the basis of an 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 10 crore (equivalent to 11 crore or US$1.6 million in 2017) each. Special Judge John Michael D'Cunha convicted her to owning assets to the tune of 66.65 crore (equivalent to 259 crore or US$36 million in 2017) (which includes 2,000 acres (810 ha) of land, 30 kilograms (66 lb) 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 CM and the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu, and thus became the first Indian chief minister to be disqualified.[139] O. Panneerselvam, a minister in her party, succeeded her as the Chief Minister on 29 September 2014.[140] On 17 October 2014, the Supreme Court granted her two months' bail and suspended her sentence.[141]

On 11 May 2015, a special Bench of the Karnataka High Court set aside her conviction on appeal. That court acquitted her and the alleged associates – Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Ilavarasi, her nephew and Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son Sudhakaran.[142]

On 14 February 2017 (subsequent to her death) the Supreme Court of India over-ruled the Karnataka High Court. Sasikala and the other accused were convicted and sentenced to four years of imprisonment, as well as being fined 10 crores each. The case against Jayalalithaa was abated because she had died and hence can't defend herself .[143]

Return as Chief Minister, 2015[edit]

The acquittal allowed her once again to hold office and on 23 May 2015, Jayalalithaa was sworn in[144] as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu 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 150,000 votes.[145]

In 2015 she introduced Amma Master Health checkup plan where in people could get various treatments done at a low fee in government hospitals and rolled out Amma Arogya plan wherein at primary health care centre in Tamil Nadu, certain tests can be done by public twice a week . This was done to help the sections of society who cannot afford the fares asked for by private hospital.[146] Later in February 2016 she started the free bus ride scheme for senior citizens above age of 60 wherein person could travel free of cost for 10 times a month.[147] Her government initiated Global Investors Summit in 2015 which saw over Rs 2.43 lakh crore worth of investments being committed to the state. Jayalalithaa's term, all of them together, saw some big-ticket investments in the state and over $20 billion FDI.[148] The department of industrial policy and promotion data dislosed that Tamil Nadu saw foreign direct investment inflows of $7.3 billion from April 2000 to March 2011 however this went up to $13.94 billion from April 2011 to December 2015, under her government, which at as per conversion rate as of 2016 equals Rs 83,766 crore. It is to be noted that between April 2015 and December 2015, the State attracted $4.3 billion in FDI.[149]

Elected as Chief Minister in 2016[edit]

In the 2016 assembly election, she became the first Tamil Nadu chief minister since MGR in 1984 to be voted back into office. That September, she fell severely ill and, following 75 days of hospitalization, died on 5 December 2016 due to cardiac arrest.

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.[150] She became the first leader in Tamil Nadu to serve consecutive terms as Chief Minister since the death of MGR in 1987.[151] In her victory speech, she commented, "Even when 10 parties allied themselves against me, I did not have a coalition and I placed my faith in God and built an alliance with the people. It is clear that the people have faith in me and I have total faith in the people."[152]

Her government within 100 days of resuming power in May 2016, wrote off the outstanding crop loans given by cooperative banks to over 16.94 lakh farmers, gave free power to households to extent of first 100 units and gave free power to handloom weavers to extent of 200 units, gave 750 units of power to powerloom weavers, implemented closure of 500 liquor shops and reduction of working hours of liquor outlets emergence of power surplus states. The establishment of first 1,000 MW nuclear power plant at Kudankulam is also regarded as one of her achievements.[153] She increased the freedom fighters monthly pension to Rs 12,000, family pension and increased special pension to Rs 6,000.[154] On 21 September 2016 she inaugurated two Chennai metro rail lines by way of video conferencing.[155] This was her last public appearance before being admitted to hospital on 22 September 2016.[citation needed]

Illness, death and reactions[edit]

Jayalalithaa's memorial.

On 22 September 2016, Jayalalithaa was admitted to Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, as she was suffering from infection and acute dehydration. Her official duties were handed over to her aide O. Panneerselvam on 12 October 2016, though she continued to remain as the chief minister of the state[156] She was also said to be suffering from severe pulmonary infection & septicaemia, which were cured. On 4 December 2016, she was re-admitted to the intensive care unit after suffering a cardiac arrest around 16:45.[157] The hospital released a press statement stating that her condition was "very critical" and that she was on life support.[158] On 5 December 2016, the hospital announced her death.[159]

Government of India declared a one-day national mourning with the national flag in all government buildings flying at half-mast. While a seven-day mourning from 6–12 December 2016 was observed by Government of Tamil Nadu,[160] also three day state mourning from 6–8 December 2016 were observed by Government of Kerala,[161] and Government of Puducherry.[162] One day state mourning on 6 December 2016 was observed by Government of Karnataka,[163] Government of Punjab,[164] Government of Uttarakhand and Government of Bihar.[165] Her body was kept in state at her residence in Poes Garden and Rajaji Hall. Around 2 million people came to pay their last respect to her at Rajaji Hall. Her last rites were performed on the evening of 6 December 2016 and she was interred in the northern end of the Marina Beach in Chennai in sandalwood casket, near the grave of her mentor M. G. Ramachandran.[166] Several prominent personalities including President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage to her at Rajaji Hall.[167] Jairam Ramesh quoted "Her achievements were often discussed by Dr Singh and Pranab babu. Both of them liked her a lot. She was an administrator with a strong social conscience. She was also very tough on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Many people in the Congress appreciated that aspect of her rule. She is a true mass leader and enjoyed tremendous support from people of Tamil Nadu.".[168]

Dispelling rumours surrounding Jayalalithaa's death, Dr Richard Beale, the consultant intensivist from the London Bridge Hospital, said the former Tamil Nadu chief minister was critically ill and an acute sepsis led to her death.[169]

In September 2017, Dindigul Sreenivasan of AIADMK courted controversy by saying that VK Sasikala's family was responsible for J Jayalalithaa's death. Sreenivasan said that he had to lie about the late chief minister's death because of pressure.[170]

Legislative career[edit]

Elections contested[edit]

Year Constituency Result Vote percentage Opposition Candidate Opposition Party Opposition vote percentage
1989 Bodinayakkanur Won 54.51 Muthumanokaran DMK 27.27[171]
1991 Bargur Won 69.3 T. Rajendar TMK 29.34[102]
1991 Kangayam Won 63.4 N. S. Rajkumar Mandradiar DMK 32.85[172]
1996 Bargur Lost 43.54 E. G. Sugavanam DMK 50.71[102]
2001 Andipatti, Krishnagiri, Bhuvanagiri, Pudukkottai Nomination rejected[173]
2002 Andipatti Won 58.22 Vaigai Sekar DMK 27.64[116]
2006 Andipatti Won 55.04 Seeman DMK 36.29[174]
2011 Srirangam Won 58.99 N Anand DMK 35.55[175][176]
2015 R.K. Nagar Won 88.43 C Mahendran CPI 5.35[177]
2016 R.K. Nagar Won 55.87 Shimla Muthuchozhan DMK 33.14[178]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1972, Jayalalithaa was awarded the Kalaimamani by the Government of Tamil Nadu.[179] She has received several honorary doctorates and other honours, beginning with an award from the University of Madras in 1991.[179][180]


  1. ^ Her party leader T. T. V. Dhinakaran stated that "Komalavalli (the character's name) is not Amma's name at all. In 2002-03 when a Congressman referred to her by this name, Amma herself said this was not her name and that she had not even done any such film role," in the context of a contraverary over of the use of the name in the Tamil film Sarkar.[1] Jayaliatha objected to the use of the name Komalavalli in a biography and obtained a stay .[2] Her niece Deepa Jayakumar also denied Komalavalli was Jayalalithaa's birth name.[3]
  2. ^ In 2001 Jayalalitha appended an additional letter a to her name for numerological reasons.[4][5]

Further reading[edit]

  • Vassanthi (2016). Amma: Jayalalithaa's Journey From Movie Star To Political Queen. Juggernaut. ISBN 978-8193284148.
  • Vassanthi (2008). Cut-outs, Caste and Cines Stars. Penguin Books India. ISBN 9780143063124.
  • Ramaswamy, Vijaya (2007). Historical dictionary of the Tamils. United States: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-470-82958-5.
  • Swaminathan, Roopa (2002). M.G. Ramachandran: Jewel of the Masses. Rupa Publications. p. 1986. ISBN 9788171678976.
  • Velayutham, Selvaraj (2008). Tamil Cinema: The Cultural Politics of India's Other Film Industry. Routledge. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-415-39680-6.
  • Vanitha, Rose (2005). Love's Rite. Penguin Books India. ISBN 9780144000593.
  • Das, Sumita (2005). Refugee Management: Sri Lankan Refugges in Tamil Nadu, 1983–2000. Mittal publications. ISBN 9788183240666.
  • Jagmohan (2007). My Frozen Turbulence In Kashmir. Allied Publishers. ISBN 9788181242174.


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