Survival of the fittest - Jayaram Jayalalithaa or J Jayalalithaa was the ideal example of this phrase. Once an accomplished dancer and a popular actor, Jayalalithaa had a truly fascinating journey from the world of celluloid to the murky world of politics. Through her grit and determination, she went on to become one of the tallest faces of Tamil Nadu's politics so much so that her rise in the corridors of power left her political rivals fuming for years.
She was no less than an enigma for the southern state and was fondly referred as 'Amma' by millions of her loyalists.
On September 22 this year, Jayalalithaa was admitted to Chennai's Apollo Hospitals, where she battled health worries in an intensive care facility for over 70 days before finally being pronounced as clinically dead by the doctors attending her.
Her journey as an accomplished dancer, an actor par excellence, her foray into politics as a member of the AIADMK in 1982 to five-time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, her conviction and acquisition in multiple cases, we bring to you a detailed account of various facets of Jayalalithaa’s life.
Jayalalithaa was born on February 24, 1948, in Mysore, Karnataka to a Brahim family. She was given her grandmother's name Koamalavalli at the time of birth. The family moved from Mysore to Chennai after Jayalalithaa's father Jayaram died when she was just two-year-old. Her mother Vedavalli worked in commercial firms in Madras and dabbled in acting to support her family.
Jayalalithaa was a good scholar and, it is believed, wanted to become a lawyer and was fond of a luxurious lifestyle. Though, she couldn't become a lawyer, she indubitably went on to amass huge wealth due to her highly successful film career. Her first Tamil film 'Vennira Aadai', which released in 1965, went on to be a smashing hit and that's when MG Ramachandran decided to cast her in his next 1969's 'Adimai Penn'. This was when Jayalalithaa's connection with MGR began, while she was still a teen - 15-year-old.
MGR, her co-star in many films, a friend and political mentor, later founded the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
'Chinnada Gombe', her first film in Kannada also went on to become a major hit. Jayalalithaa appeared in a few Bollywood films as well and acted in Hindi film 'Izzat' opposite macho man Dharmendra in 1968.
Between 1965 and 1973, she starred in altogether 28 films with Tamil superstar MGR. Her first with MGR was BR Panthalu's 'Aayirathil Oruvan' (1965) and their last film together was 'Pattikaattu Ponnaiya' (1973).
She was believed to be a revolutionary and became the first to wear skirts on the big screen.
Jayalalithaa claimed that it was MGR’s influence which got her into politics. MG Ramachandran, who was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu then, used to rely on her a lot which became a cause of concern for many in the AIADMK. In 1982, she joined the Dravidian party officially.
Under MGR's guidance, Jayalalithaa became the propaganda secretary for the party and was selected as its candidate in the by-election for the Tiruchendur Assembly constituency. In 1984, she was nominated and elected to the Rajya Sabha, which she retained till 1989. It is said that MGR is said to have sent her to the Rajya Sabha as she was fluent in English.
MGR's demise in 1987 triggered a battle of supremacy in the AIADMK, which was later split into two folds with the one faction going with MGR's wife Janaki, while the other staying with Jayalalithaa.
On January 7th, 1988, 'Janaki' was sworn in as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and was required to prove her majority on the floor by January 28. But in a sudden turn of events, the Rajiv Gandhi government at the Centre dismissed the Janaki government and imposed President’s Rule in the state.
Turning point in Jayalalithaa's political career came in 1989 when she successfully contested and was elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. She also became the first woman Opposition leader of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. The two factions of the party re-united in February 1989 under the leadership of Jayalalithaa, who was unanimously elected as the General Secretary of the united AIADMK.
Her resounding victory in 1991 elections further established the faith MGR had shown in her.
Jayalalithaa became the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for the first time in 1991. She won her second term in 2001 and the third in 2011.
In 1989, during the Budget session, Jayalalithaa witnessed one of the worst incidents in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. All hell had broke loose and heavy violence took place inside the house after Jayalalithaa, the then Opposition leader asserted that "Karunanidhi had no rights to be a CM."
Jayalilathaa was brutally attacked by the ruling DMK members in front of the Assembly Speaker on the behest of Karunanidhi and left the Assembly with her torn saree and dishevelled hairs. The event created huge sympathy for her among the masses.
While campaigning for assembly election in 1991, she drew parallel with the incident to 'Draupadi's 'cheer haran' and compared Karunanidhi to 'Duryodhana'. It brought her outstanding victory in the elections.
However, the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK lost power in the 1996 elections when it won mere 4 of the 168 seats that they contested in one of its biggest setbacks.
Jayalalithaa was defeated by the DMK candidate in Bargur Constituency. The poll outcome was attributed to allegations of scams and wrongdoing against her and her ministers.
The 1995 wedding event of her foster son Sudhakaran made enough noises in the political world for having the largest wedding banquet. In November 2011, she told a special court that the entire Rs 6 crore expenses associated with the wedding were paid by the bride's side.
In 1996, multiple corruption cases were filed against her by the then ruling DMK government headed by Karunanidhi. Jayalalithaa was arrested on December 7, 1996, and was remanded to a 30-day judicial custody in connection with the Colour TV scam. She was charged with receiving kickbacks to the tune of Rs 10.13 crore.
She was barred from standing as a candidate in elections in 2001 as was found guilty of criminal offences, including allegedly obtaining property belonging to a state-operated agency called TANSI. AIADMK minister and her loyalist O Panneerselvam was subsequently installed as the state Chief Minister. Not to everyone's surprise, his government was believed to be micro-managed by Jayalalithaa.
Despite her name appearing in several scams, the AIADMK won a majority and, in May 2001, she was made the Chief Minister as a non-elected member of the state assembly.
In 2001, she was also convicted in Pleasant Stay Hotel case by a trial court to one-year imprisonment. In a relief to Jayalalithaa and her party, she was acquitted in both the TANSI and Pleasant Stay Hotel cases in December 2001.
Once again, Jayalalithaa assumed the power and became state Chief Minister in March 2003.
In April 2011, the AIADMK became part of a 13-party alliance that won the 14th state assembly elections. Jayalalithaa was sworn in as the southern state's chief minister for the third time,.
However, in 2014, legal troubles in disproportionate assets case came back to haunt her as a Special Court in Bangalore sentenced the AIADMK supremo to four years in jail with a Rs 100-crore fine.
She was convicted of misusing her official position during her tenure of 1991-96 to accumulate properties worth Rs 66.65 crores. The assets under the purview of the case are farmhouses and bungalows in Chennai, a tea estate in the Nilgiris, jewellery, unaccounted cash deposits and a fleet of cars. A raid conducted at her Poes Garden residence in 1997 had made headlines as several valuable assets - 800 kg silver, 28 kg gold, 750 pairs of shoes, 10,500 sarees, 91 watches and other valuables - were seized by the officials.
The trial in the DA case, that went on for 18 long years, saw her conviction, jail term, her disqualification as a Chief Minister and later acquittal by the Karnataka High Court in May 11, 2015.
After winning the court battle in the DA case, Jayalalithaa was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for a record-equalling fifth time on May 23, 2015.
In 2016 Assembly polls, the Exit Polls predicted a total whitewash for AIADMK but Jayalalithaa – the maverick leader that she was – prove them wrong by winning a comfortable majority in the assembly and became the Chief Minister for sixth time.
Jayalalithaa was last seen in public on July 4th this year after she took oath as an MLA from RK Nagar seat. But by then, whispers of her poor health had started circulating owing to her minimum public appearances and absence from the Secretariat.
With Jayalalithaa's health deteriorating day by day, the AIADMK obviously had reasons to be worried. After all, the Dravidian party was predominantly based on the mass appeal of its chief – Jayalalithaa - who had by then started losing herself to serious health disorders.