Jayalalitha Jayaram (Tamil: ஜெயலலிதா ஜெயராம்) or J. Jayalalitha (as commonly referred), (born February 24, 1948), is a former Chief Minister and current leader of the opposition of the Government of Tamil Nadu, India. She is the incumbent general secretary of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a Dravidian party in the state. She is popularly called Amma (mother) and Puratchi Thalaivi (Revolutionary Leader) by her followers. She was a popular film star in Tamil cinema before her entry into politics.
She was born in Mysore
as Komalavalli. After losing her father at the age of two, her family fell into poverty. She was educated at the Bishop Cotton Girls High School in Bangalore but later she moved to Madras Presidency
along with her mother Sandhya, who ventured as an actress into Tamil cinema
. She was then schooled at Sacred Heart Matriculation School (popularly known as Church Park) of Presentation Convent in Chennai
. She excelled in academics and is claimed that she was offered a scholarship for higher studies from Government of India
, but with the guidance from her mother, young Jayalalitha moved into film industry.
Prior to her venture into politics, she had a successful career in the Tamil film industry
as an actress. Chinnada Gombe
, her first film (in Kannada
) was a major hit. Her first Telugu
film Manushulu Mamathalu
made her a superstar. In 1972, she was honoured by the Tamil Nadu government with the award Kalaimamani
In 1981, she joined the AIADMK and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha
in 1988, marking her entry into the Parliament of India
. Her association with politics grew from her relationship with M. G. Ramachandran
(popularly known as M.G.R), movie star and then Chief Minister. According to well documented media reports and several publications, including books and journals, Jayalalithaa and M. G. Ramachandran
had friendship helped her to become his political heir. On M.G R's death, she was alienated by a faction of the party who chose to support M.G R's wife Janaki Ramachandran
. Drawing on her massive popularity and her image as the "wronged woman", in 1989, she won the elections to the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly—incidentally, becoming the first woman to be elected Leader of the Opposition
. She accused that the then ruling party, the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
- Dravidian People's Party), who allegedly tried to assault her in the assembly, and there, she reportedly took an oath to enter the assembly house only as chief minister. In 1991, following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi
, just days before the elections, her alliance with Indian National Congress
paid off as a sympathy wave propelled the coalition to a massive victory. She was re-elected to the legislative assembly and became the first elected woman chief minister of Tamil Nadu (Janaki Ramachandran
technically became the first woman chief minister following her husband's death, but she was unelected and presided over a transitional 'caretaker' government) serving the full tenure (June 24
, 1991 - May 12
). However, due to an anti-incumbency wave
, and several allegations of corruption and malfeasance against her and her ministers, she lost power to the DMK in 1996, in a landslide defeat. All the ministers in her erstwhile cabinet, including her, were defeated in the elections and six of them even lost their deposits, indicating that they did not even secure the minimum number of votes expected of them. She returned to power with a huge majority in the 2001 elections, having mustered a bigger coalition and defying many pre-poll predictions. In the last assembly elections held in 2006, her party had to relinquish power to the DMK government.
During the years out of power, she had to face a number of criminal lawsuits related to her first term rule, mostly dealing with embezzlement and monetary fraud. In 2001, a specially designated court convicted her of criminal breach of trust and of illegally acquiring governmental property belonging to TANSI
, a state-run agency, and sentenced her to five years' imprisonment. She appealed against the sentence to the Supreme Court of India
. While the appeal was under judicial consideration, the conviction disqualified her from contesting the 2001 elections. However, having led her party to victory, she controversially became the Chief Minister
as a non-elected member of the assembly.
On September 21, 2001, a five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India ruled that "a person who is convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of not less than two years cannot be appointed the Chief Minister of a State under Article 164 (1) read with (4) and cannot continue to function as such". Thereby, the bench decided that "in the appointment of Ms. Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister there has been a clear infringement of a Constitutional provision and that a writ of quo warranto must issue".
In effect, her appointment as Chief Minister was declared null and invalid. Therefore, technically, she was not the Chief Minister in the period between May 14, 2001 and September 21, 2001. O. Panneerselvam, a minister, was subsequently installed as the Chief Minister. However, his government was widely believed to have been puppeted and micro-managed by Jayalalithaa. In 2003, the Supreme Court acquitted her in the specific case, for lack of conclusive evidence to convict her. 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, Jayalalithaa took over the Chief Ministership again. She is still a party to a few criminal litigations from her first term rule in the courts in the neighbouring Karnataka state .
After the 2006 assembly elections, O. Panneerselvam was elected the AIADMK legislature party leader and hence the Leader of the Opposition in the assembly, after she decided not to attend the assembly except if "absolutely necessary". However she, by virtue of her strong control over her party, was considered to be the de-facto leader of the opposition in the state. Later that month when all the attending AIADMK MLAs were suspended, she started attending the assembly. She was elected the legislature party leader and now (as of 2006) leads the opposition in the assembly.
Now in a latest speech she has quoted that sure in future her party would rule India . and would return to power in Tamil Nadu and are poised to reap greater success than ever before and a great victory is on the way .
Major successes of her government
- Banning of High interest private loans.
- Banning lottery tickets to encourage savings.
- Elimination of the much feared bandit Veerappan.
- Introduction of Videoconferencing in Jails and Courts, thus eliminating the need to bring the accused to extend the remand every time.
- All women police stations.
- Rain water Harvesting Scheme .
- Rural Women Self Help Programme benefitting lakhs of ladies in villages.
- Free cycles to all school students.
- Thottil Kuzhandai Thittam initiated by J,Jayalalitha won her widespread accolades.
Shortcomings and Failures
- Anticonversion law - which she subsequently withdrew following the drubbing she had in 2004 Lok Sabha Elections
- H Ration Cards - subsequently withdrawn
- Cancelling the entrance exams for admission to professional courses
Allegations of oppressive style of governance
Her detractors consider her style of Governance oppressive. The following incidents are a few which are popularly held against her, to justify such claims.
- In 2003, teachers of government-run educational institutions and employees of the state government declared an indefinite strike, demanding the repeal of an act that reduced their pension benefits. Jayalalithaa's government adopted a defiant stance [maintaining that the reduction was necessary to strengthen the fiscal position of the government]. A hurriedly enacted legislation enabled her to declare the strike illegal as it prevented the "maintenance of essential services" and terminate the services of the striking employees, numbering around 170,000. There were widespread allegations of hyperaction and witch-hunt, with the police being pressed into action to target striking individuals, sometimes to the extent of storming their residences and arresting them on flimsy grounds. The High Court and the Supreme Court of India, responding to appeals, ruled the government action legitimate but ordered the constitution of a three member Committee of High Court Judges to consider the appeals of the employees on an individual basis. The committee, deliberating over a period of six months, ordered the reinstatement of all but a little less than 4,000 employees, and recommended minor punishment to around 6,000 employees. Later, after her party suffered, Jayalalithaa reversed the decisions and reinstated all the dismissed employees and withdrew the penalties imposed, despite the Committee of Judges’ findings. This is widely believed to be in response to her defeat in the national elections in May, 2004.
- Allegations have been raised over the veracity of claims in various criminal proceedings filed during her Chief Ministership against her detractors, including her estranged son V. N. Sudhakaran, accusing them of possessing narcotics.
- In 1992, Chandralekha, an IAS officer and the chairperson of state owned Industrial Development Corporation was brutally assaulted on the roads of Chennai, and acid thrown at her face. It has been alleged that this was due to her refusal to toe Jayalalithaa's line in the affair of disinvestment in SPIC, a joint sector company. An arrested suspect in this case, Surla, alleged that he did it under instructions from Jayalalithaa and her close aide Sasikala Natarajan.
- On 30 May, 1995, R. Shanmugha Sundaram, an advocate belonging to DMK, was grievously injured in an attack Allegations have been levelled against Jayalalithaa .
- She has constantly been at the heart of controversy over the numerous defamation suits filed against opposition leaders and members of the press, using privileges available to her in the official capacity and by using government funds. She has been accused of being highly intolerant to negative criticism.
- The action against Jayendra Saraswathi during her Chief-ministership, has been condemned in some quarters as being hyperactive and invited condemnation from the Supreme Court of India.
- Action initiated against the then opposition leader and the current Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi and union ministers Murasoli Maran and T.R.Baalu all belonging to DMK, in 2004 for the Flyover scam case. and this led to widespread criticism of the action.
- orders were given to arrest the editors of The Hindu, a leading newspaper based in Chennai, for publishing an editorial entitled 'Rising Intolerance' that criticized her as "crude use of state power". The editor of "Murasoli" - which reprinted the piece - was also arrested and sentenced to 15 days in prison.
- Many people and the media feel that Jayalalitha believes in numerology and astrology; they point to her name change from "Jayalalitha" to "Jayalalithaa" as being directly borne out of such a belief. Press reports too have mentioned her faith in astrology and numerology, stating that she consults astrologers before taking important political decisions.
Awards and degrees
In 1991, the University of Madras honoured her by conferring
the degree of Doctor of Literature. In 1992, the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University
conferred the degree of Doctor of Science
on her. In 1993, the Madurai Kamaraj University
conferred the degree of Doctor of Letters
on her. In 2003, the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
conferred the degree of Doctor of Science on her and the Bharathidasan University
conferred the degree of Doctor of Letters on her.
In 2005, the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University conferred the degree of Doctor of Law on her.