This Article is From Sep 27, 2014

J Jayalalithaa: Once Film Star, Then Chief Minister, Now Convicted of Corruption

J Jayalalithaa: Once Film Star, Then Chief Minister, Now Convicted of Corruption

A woman walks past a portrait of J Jayalalithaa in Chennai on March 13, 2012.

J Jayalalithaa will soon step down as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. In what has come as a huge blow to the 66-year-old politician, she has been convicted of corruption by a Bangalore court.

The case against her accuses her of misusing her first term as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu from 1991 to 1996 to collect assets that were vastly disproportionate to her income.

The AIADMK chief, who has been public with her ambition to become the country's prime minister, is known to be a maverick leader. Dubbed by her adversaries as being imperious, Ms Jayalalithaa, called Amma by her followers, is also strong-willed, tenacious and gritty.

She is also suave, and can charm her interlocutors with her command over several languages, including English, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam - a rarity in Tamil politics.

Ms Jayalalithaa was born on February 24, 1948 at Melukote in Mandya district. Her mother Sandhya shifted to Bangalore after her husband's untimely death, and admitted her daughter in Bishop Garden Girls' High School. They later relocated to Chennai, where Sandhya enrolled Jayalalithaa at Presentation Convention Church Park. She finished her matriculation in 1964, and won a scholarship from the government of India for pursuing higher studies, but her mother persuaded her to taking up acting as a profession, at a young age of 15.

As an actor, Ms Jayalalithaa soon made a name for herself. She performed the lead role in over 140 films in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. A trained classical dancer, she even acted in a Hindi film, Izzat, where she paired up with Dharmendra.

In the Tamil film industry, she matched her acting talents with actors such as Shivaji Ganesan and MG Ramachandran, or MGR,  who would later mentor her into the world of politics. She appeared in 24 films with him.

Ms Jayalalithaa joined the AIADMK in 1982. Starting from 1977, MGR won three consecutive terms in the state assembly, and he died in office in 1987. His death gave way to a bitter power struggle in the AIADMK. The party split a year later, with one faction rallying behind his widow Janaki, the other aligning itself with Ms Jayalalithaa.

Ms Jayalalithaa eventually won the tussle to gain control of AIADMK. In 1991, she was elected as the chief minister for the first time.

Her first stint as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu was marred with charges of corruption. The accusations would come back to haunt her later. In 2001, she was prevented by the courts from contesting the assembly polls after being held guilty of obtaining property belonging to TANSI, a state-run agency. In March, 2002, she was absolved of some of the charges by the Madras High Court. It cleared the way for her rehabilitation. She was re-elected as the chief minister after winning a by-election from Andipatti.

She ceded power to the DMK-Congress alliance in 2006, but stormed back five years later as the leader of a 13-party alliance.