The Bihar Post

Selvi J Jayalalithaa: The life and times of a steel magnolia


J Jayalalithaa was no stranger to controversy in her long political life. She had seen numerous lows too in her political career that spanned over three decades. But she rose like the proverbial Phoenix each time, and each time stronger than before.

She became the Amma for her followers and her cult-like following is no less bewildering her than her colourful career in the silver screen.

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Her baptism in politics was through the Tamil cinema icon and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) founder MG Ramachandran, who also happened to be the love of her life besides being the political mentor.

She was 34 when in 1982 she joined the AIADMK, and became the propaganda secretary. She was nominated to the Rajya Sabha later.

In 1987 when MGR died, the AIADMK split with one group supporting the wife of MGR, Janaki Ramachandran, and the other following her. In the tussle, Jayalalithaa, who was attacked viciously as the other woman in the life of MGR, emerged as the winner finally though Janaki became the chief minister for 21 days till her government was dismissed and President’s rule was imposed.

She became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in 1991 for the first time. While she last assumed the office of CM in 2015, she previously served as Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996, in 2001, from 2002 to 2006 and from 2011 to 2014.

Jayalalithaa was born on Feb 24 in 1948 in Mysore, Karnataka in a Tamil Iyengar Brahmin family. Though she was a meritorious student, it is said she was forced to join the film industry by her mother Sandhya, also an actress. She was only 15 then. But she soon became a successful actress and even at one point commanded the highest fee as heroine. She starred in over 140 films in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

In Chennai, she had underwent training in classical music, western classical piano, and various forms of classical dance, including Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, Manipuri and Katha and it was in a dance programme that she was spotted by none other than the movie legend Shivaji Ganesan who recommended her to be a film star.

While a child, Jayalalithaa acted in the Kannada-language Sri Shaila Mahathme (1961) her debut in film. The rest is history.

According AIADMK website, under the Guidance of “Puratchi Thalaivar” MGR, she entered politics in the year 1982 and become an AIADMK Member. In 1983 she was appointed as the Party’s Propaganda Secretary. She campaigned in support of the party’s candidate who was contesting the Thiruchendur By – election.

By plunging in to the fray she shattered all the impediments and attained victory for the party Candidate. From 1984 till 1989 she served as the member of the Rajya Sabha.

Later, she was elected as Tamil Nadu Legislative Member from Bodinayakanur.

In 1984, owing to ill health,  MGR was admitted to a hospital in USA.  The same year in December the party had to face both Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections together.

As MGR was unable to go on a whirlwind campaign in support of the party candidates, Jayalalithaa took up this crucial role. Her charisma saw In 1989, AIADMK’s resounding victory in the Lok Sabha Election both in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.

Later in, 1991 the state had to face  assembly election and AIADMK under the able guidance of her swept  victory in 225 constituencies of the total 234. She contested from both Bargur and Kangeyam constituencies during the general elections to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in 1991 and won in both places but subsequently resigned the Kangeyam Assembly seat.

Again in 1991 Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry had to face the Lok Sabha General Elections. AIADMK with the support of few friendly parties secured 40 seats in both Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.

AIADMK under the aegis of Amma made a remarkable comeback in the 2011 Legislative Elections with a resounding victory over the DMK and Congress alliance.

AIADMK coalition won 195 seats of the total 234. AIADMK alone secured 132 constituencies and formed the Government. She was sworn in as Chief Minister for the second time on 14.5.2001. AMMA was elected from Andipatti constituency.

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In the 2006 assembly election to Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK coalition secured 68 seats and lost.  She became the Opposition Leader in Tamil Nadu Assembly.

The 2011 Tamil Nadu Assembly General Election ensured the landslide victory of the AIADMK combined coalition, which trounced the DMK .The AIADMK coalition together secured 203 seats. AIADMK bagged 150 seats to form the Government with complete majority.

Amma etched success in Srirangam Constituency from where she contested. Puratchi Thalaive Amma adorned the seat of chief minister for the third time on 16.05.2011.

In 2011 Municipal Elections and Co-operative Society Elections AIADMK attained landslide victory. In the 2014 Lok sabha elections AIADMK won 37 out of 39 constituencies.

The 2016 assembly election once again ensured the emphatic win of AIADMK and Purtachi Thalaivi Amma continued as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for the 6th term.

However, despite her popularity, her career was tarnished by allegations of corruptions indulged in by her and her associates like close aide Shashikala.

Jayalalithaa was convicted for misusing her office to obtain disproportionate assets worth Rs 66.65 crores during 1991-96 and the case saw her go to jail again in Sept 2014.

On 27 September 2014, Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years in jail and fined Rs 100 crore by the Special Court in Bangalore. She was convicted in the 18-year-old case that was slapped on her by politician Subramanian Swamy (now member of Bharatiya Janata Party).  Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Ilavarasi, her nephew and the chief minister’s disowned foster son Sudhakaran were also convicted.

She spent 22 days in jail.

Jayalalithaa could speak good English and all the southern languages. She wrote several articles in both English and Tamil. She has written four Novels in Tamil and also few short stories.

She in Tamil Nadu became the only politician who won a second term in  three decades when in May 2016, she won again and became the chief minister for second straight term.


1st Term: 24.6.1991 – 12.5.1996
2nd Term: 14.5.2001 – 21.9.2001
3rd Term: 2.3.2002    – 12.5.2006
4th term: 16.5.2011 – 27.9.2014
5th term: 23.5.2015 – 05-12-2016


9.2.1989 – 1.12.1989
29.5.2006 – 13.5.2011


3.4.1984 – 28.1.1989

27.1.1989 – 30.1.1991
24.6.1991 – 12.5.1996
2.3.2002 -11.5.2006
12.5.2006 – 13.5.2011
14.5.2011 – till date

Images: Movie stills sources from Internet/ AIADMK official website

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