POLITICS

How Rajinikanth Played A Key Role In Jayalalithaa's Defeat In 1996

"She was distressed."

12/12/2016 9:05 AM IST | Updated 12/12/2016 9:33 AM IST
AFP/Getty Images
Indian fans spray milk on a poster of Bollywood star Rajinikanth outside a cinema on the first day of release of his new Tamil-language film 'Kabali' in Chennai on July 22, 2016.

The year 1996 was an eye-opener for J Jayalalithaa. The all-powerful matriarch of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), who once said no power on earth could shake her, suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of rival DMK, who, acting on an anti-incumbency wave, seized power in Tamil Nadu.

But it was a testament to the influence of star power in southern politics that actor Rajinikanth, a demi-God in Tamil Nadu, had a significant role in her defeat.

The actor told a condolence meet for the late Tamil Nadu chief minister, that his campaign speech led to the AIADMK's fall from grace.

"She was distressed because of my words. I was one of the main reasons why she lost in 1996," he said.

In its cover story, 'Taken By Storm', that India Today published back then, GC Shekhar and Nirupama Subramanian wrote that even AIADMK party workers accepted the role that the Kabali actor played in turning the tide against Amma.

"If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu."

"In my constituency, at least 25,000 young voters chose the DMK only because of Rajinikanth. And that hurt us really bad," the story quoted an AIADMK candidate as saying.

Rajinikanth reportedly said "If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu."

But the actor said Jayalalithaa had a golden heart. When Rajinikanth sought an appointment with her to invite her to his daughter's wedding, he was certain that Jayalalithaa, Amma to her supporters in the state, would not forget the old slight. To his surprise, she not only promised to attend the wedding but assured him that "she would come for the wedding even if there was another marriage ceremony of a party functionary."

PTI
Chennai: Actor Rajinikanth paying his last respects to AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa, at Rajaji Hall in Chennai on Tuesday. PTI Photo by R Senthil Kumar(PTI12_7_2016_000011B)

"This lady with a golden heart is no more among us," he said.

A disastrous tie-up with the Congress and a revolt led by GK Moopanar and P Chidambaram added to the impetus that M Karunanidhi needed to propel the DMK to emerge as a challenger to Jayalalithaa's AIADMK in 1996, according to the India Today cover story.

Jayalalithaa passed away on 5 December after prolonged illness at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, creating a power vacuum in the AIADMK, a party she led for decades.

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