Jayalalithaa plays the queen’s gambit


Chennai (IANS) AIADMK general secretary and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s master stroke, winning 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state, is akin to a popular opening in chess, the queen’s gambit.

In this, white sacrifices the queen-side bishop pawn for it’s advantage in the game.

The chess player in the 66-year-old Jayalalithaa came to the fore when she played the queen’s gambit – sacrificing the two communist parties – hoping to become the queen of India or at least the kingmaker in case of a fractured election verdict.

Till she made the move, it was thought that AIADMK would fight the elections with the CPI and the CPI-M.

But Jayalalithaa decided to go alone in the 40 parliamentary seats – 39 in Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry.

At the state level, her idea worked out, with the AIADMK winning 37 out of 39 in Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK will now be the third largest party in the Lok Sabha after the BJP and the Congress.

However, she may still not be able to have a play at the centre given the massive mandate the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has won.

“The AIADMK has done extremely well. The party seems to have bettered their own expectations,” Ramu Manivannan, professor of political science in the University of Madras, told IANS.

“People seem to agree with her views on various issues advocated strongly by her like the Cauvery river water sharing, Mullaperiyar Dam dispute with Kerala, attacks on Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka, denial of state’s share by the centre and others,” Manivannan said.

Her party may not be a part of the new government, but Jayalalithaa will certainly be in a position to influence its the policies, Manivannan added.

Born at Melukote in what is now Karnataka on Feb 2, 1948, Jayalalithaa moved to Chennai with her mother, who started acting in movies.

Jayalalithaa was a bright student and studied at the Bishop Cotton Girl’s High School in Bangalore and another Christian convent, Church Park, in Chennai.

She entered the movie world at the age of 16 and first acted in a Kannada movie. Her first Tamil movie was the “Vennira Aadai”.

The success of “Aayirathil Oruvan”, pairing her with the legendary M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), turned Jayalalithaa into a leading heroine in Tamil movies.

She has acted in over 100 films, mostly in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

A charismatic leader who is fluent in Tamil, English and Hindi language, a rare quality in Tamil Nadu politics, Jayalalithaa has also sung many songs and written several stories.

Few could have predicted Jayalalithaa’s meteoric rise in Tamil Nadu politics. Despite being a Brahmin by birth – a disadvantage in the state – her political career graph only went up.

Today her party leaders are at her feet, literally. The mere sight of a helicopter carrying Jayalalithaa is enough for her cabinet ministers to bow.

As political commentator Cho Ramaswamy says Jayalalithaa “is really a phenomenon”.

AIADMK founder-leader MGR made Jayalalithaa the party’s propaganda secretary in the early 1980s. In 1984, she entered the Rajya Sabha.

Deciding to remain single, Jayalalithaa was elected to the Tamil Nadu assembly for the first time in 1989. Two years later, she became the chief minister, sweeping the election of 1991 held in the wake of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

She lost her huge mandate within five years amid corruption charges. She returned to power in 2001, though corruption charges still dog her.

The one most worrying factor for Jayalalithaa now is the disproportionate assets case in Bangalore court that is progressing at a fast pace. A verdict against her would be a major setback for her political calculations.