Jayalalithaa is a major Indian politician, who also holds the honor of being the first elected female Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Full Name: Jayalalithaa Jayaram
Born: February 24, 1948, Melukote
Party: All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Parents: Jayaram, Sandhya
Siblings: Jaya Kumar
Key Achievements: Elected as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Elected as a member of the Rajya Sabha, Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil, Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Telugu
Jayalalithaa Jayaram, or Jayalalithaa as she’s popularly known, is a big name among the select few female politicians of India. She was a flourishing film actress in the first part of her career, who went on to served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu later on. Jayalalithaa is fondly called as ‘Amma’, meaning mother, by all her followers and citizens of her state.
Birth and early life
Jayalalithaa was born on February 24, 1948, in the Melukote village of Mysore district, which now falls under Karnataka. Her father Jayaram died when Jayalalithaa was barely two years old, which left her upbringing to be done all alone by her mother Sandhya. Falling into poverty, Sandhya and little Jayalalithaa soon moved to Bangalore, where Sandhya’s parents lived. Sandhya went on to become an actress, but soon fell on hard times, and as a result, she had to push a fifteen-year old Jayalalithaa into the world of films.
Career as an Actress
Jayalalithaa has always maintained that acting came naturally to her, and that she didn’t undergo any sort of training in order to excel at it. Being a trained dancer in the major dance forms of Bharatnatyam and Mohiniattam, Jayalalithaa also translated her dancing pedigree effortlessly on celluloid. She made her debut in a Kannada film called Chinnada Gombe, in the year 1964. She was only fifteen years of age and still in school at this point of time.
As she was widely accepted as a lead actress, Jayalalithaa went on to act in a string of successful films in Tamil and Telugu. She went on to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil in 1973, for her film Pattikada Pattinama, opposite actor Sivaji Ganesan. Her most successful partnership on screen was with the famous Tamil actor M.G. Ramachandran, with whom she starred in as many as 28 hit movies. Some of the prominent works of this pair include Kavalkaran, Adimai Pen, Engal Thangam, Kudiyiruntha Koil, Ragasiya Police 115 and Nam Naadu. Jayalalithaa acted in Nadhiyai Thedi Vandha Kadal, as her last film, which released in the year 1980.
Career as a Politician
Jayalalithaa made forays into politics in the year 1982, when she joined the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). She was promptly promoted to the echelons of the party structure, much to the chagrin of many of its senior and respected leaders. This led M.G. Ramachandran, the founder of AIADMK to deal with various allegations of bias and nepotism towards Jayalalithaa. Many believed and speculated the two to be involved in a relationship, but this was never publicly accepted or announced.
The year 1987 saw a lot of turmoil in the state of Tamil Nadu, as this was the time when the incumbent Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran passed away. This was also followed by the AIADMK splitting into two factions: one that of Janaki, Ramachandran’s widow, and the other one of Jayalalithaa, who proclaimed to be the heir of Ramachandran’s political legacy. Regardless of all the disputes, she remained a Member of Parliament for Rajya Sabha, a nomination she won in 1984. She ended 1989 on a high, as she finally went on to be elected as a member of Tamil Nadu’s legislative assembly.
Jayalalithaa the Chief Minister
Jayalalithaa first tasted electoral victory in 1991, the year in which she became the first elected female Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. As a Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa vowed to always remember and follow the political footsteps of her mentor M.G. Ramachandran. In her three stints as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in 1991, 2001, and 2011, Jayalalithaa managed to win many hearts across her state and throughout India. She abolished many archaic laws that crippled the governing functions of the state in her reign. She put a stop to horrendous practices of female infanticide and abortion of female fetuses. Many statistical pundits and experts credit her for Tamil Nadu's achievement of balancing out the skewed sex ratio of the state. She has also received much praise and accolades for her work of welfare, providing employment, infrastructure, etc. Smart and unorthodox schemes like the ‘Amma’s Idly’ scheme, where each idly was priced as low as Rs 2/-, evened out her image in the eyes of her critics as well.
However, her most significant and undeniable contribution to Tamil Nadu has been women empowerment. Jayalalithaa has sought equality for women in all walks of life, a principle which she strongly believes in. In fact, she managed to set up India’s first company of female police commandos in the year 2003. Like male commandos, these female commandos were made adept at covering the handling of weapons, detection and disposal of bombs, driving, horse riding, and adventure sports. Her obsession with uplifting of women led her to introduce the first ever police stations operated solely by women. Not only this, she introduced 30 per cent quota for women in all police jobs and established as many as 57 all-women police stations. There were other all-women establishments as well, like libraries, stores, banks and co-operative elections, etc.
Despite managing to strike a chord with people across the state and perhaps the country, Jayalalithaa still had to bear the brunt of some severe denigration that also came her way. Among her share of censures, her foster son’s wedding fiasco of 1995 features prominently. Reports suggest that at the wedding of Jayalaithaa’s foster son Sudhakaran, as much as 6 crore rupees were spent in a lavish display of extravagance and pomp. The wedding went down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most attended and the largest banquet wedding of all time. Many of Jayalalithaa’s critics, followers, friends, opposition party leaders, etc., scorned at such a mishap, but Jayalalithaa seemed unperturbed. Apart from this major controversy, issues like her disproportionate holding of properties as a Chief Minister, her extraordinarily huge collection of clothes and apparels, illegal accumulation of wealth and land properties have plagued her political career every once in a while.
In conclusion, it can be said that Jayalalithaa has been under the spotlight for almost all her life, but she’s never shied away from it.