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The Stunning Story Of How Jayalalithaa Trounced MGR's Wife To Take Over AIADMK

20/05/2016 7:27 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader Jayalalithaa Jayaram speaks during a media briefing in Chennai on May 19, 2016. The makeup of India's next government could lie in the hands of a trio of women who command a massive following in their regional heartlands, including a populist former movie star known as 'Mother' to supporters. / AFP / ARUN SANKAR (Photo credit should read ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Excerpted with permission of Juggernaut Books from 'Amma: Jayalalithaa's Journey from Movie Star to Political Queen'.

Read the book on the Juggernaut Books app here (for iOS users) and here (for Android users)


'MGR is no more.'

It was a stunning blow to her. He had departed, leaving her in the lurch. In a daze she summoned the driver and rushed to Ramavaram Gardens, MGR's residence, but when she reached there she was refused permission to enter the house. She got out of the car and banged on the door with her fists. When the door was opened at last no one would say where the body was. She ran up and down the front and back stairs several times but all the doors were firmly slammed on her face to prevent her from having a glimpse of the dead body of the man who was not only her mentor but with whom she had had such a close, emotional association.

Eventually she was told that his body had been taken away through the back door and driven to Rajaji Hall. She got into her car with her heart pounding and instructed the driver to race there. At Rajaji Hall she rushed to the body and firmly planted herself at the head. MGR lay supine, neatly dressed in his full-sleeved shirt, fur cap and dark glasses - his trademark attire.

One can imagine her feelings on seeing the lifeless body of the matinee idol who had promised Sandhya, her mother, that he would take care of her dear Ammu.

One can imagine her feelings on seeing the lifeless body of the matinee idol who had promised Sandhya, her mother, that he would take care of her dear Ammu. She did not shed a tear. She did not wail. She stunned the onlookers and mourners by standing vigil by MGR's body for two days - thirteen long hours the first day and eight hours the second day. She willed herself not to give way to physical exhaustion.

But the mental and physical torture came from other sources. Several women supporters of Janaki's stood near her and began stamping on her feet, driving their nails into her skin and pinching her to drive her away. But she stood undaunted, swallowing the humiliation and her pride, obstinately remaining where she had taken position. She seemed oblivious of her surroundings. But there must have been one question hammering her brain - what now? She was thirty-eight, single, left in limbo by the very man, now lying lifeless, who had brought her into politics with promises of a great future ahead. She, who had been looked upon by the party cadres as a natural successor to their beloved leader, was now a non-entity, fighting to have a glimpse of the departed leader. It was not in her nature to take defeat lying down.

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She followed the body as it was placed in the gun carriage, trying to place a wreath on the body and join the funeral procession. The soldiers on duty helped her by giving her a hand to get into the carriage. There were at once angry shouts from behind and she saw MLA Dr K.P. Ramalingam advancing menacingly towards her. Suddenly she was assaulted - hit on the forehead by Janaki's nephew Deepan, who pushed her out of the carriage. She was hurt and bruised and shocked beyond words. Disgusted at the insults hurled at her by Deepan and Ramalingam - they called her a prostitute - she decided not to attend the funeral. She was driven home in her Contessa, escorted by soldiers.

The news spread like wildfire, sending shock waves among the party cadres. Her bruised spirits must have soared as party workers and several leaders, including MPs and MLAs, started pouring in to see her. They swore to stand by her in her claim to be MGR's successor as party leader. Many among the cadres openly said, 'We want a charismatic leader. Jayalalithaa is the only person with charisma.'

She felt assured that even though MGR had not nominated her as his successor, her standing among the people had not diminished.

She felt assured that even though MGR had not nominated her as his successor, her standing among the people had not diminished, and they would decide in her favour. But there was no immediate need for an election. The AIADMK had won the elections with a comfortable majority. And the next elections were two years away.

Ninety-seven MLAs of the AIADMK signed a memorandum supporting Janaki and submitted it to S.L. Khurana, the Governor, who then invited Janaki to form the government. Janaki was sworn in as the chief minister on 7 January 1988. She was required to prove her majority on the floor by 28 January.

On that day there was absolute pandemonium in the Assembly on account of the Speaker showing open support to Janaki's side. Several members angrily protested against this open flouting of rules. Suddenly some goondas entered the house and started beating up the pro-Jayalalithaa group and the Congress MLAs. During the rampage someone alerted the police. For the first time in the history of the Tamil Nadu Assembly, the police entered the legislative house and lathi- charged MLAs. In the midst of all this fracas, the Speaker announced that the confidence motion was won by the government.

Suddenly some goondas entered the house and started beating up the pro-Jayalalithaa group and the Congress MLAs.

When Jayalalithaa was informed about the rumpus in the Assembly she knew there was no time to waste. She issued a statement that democracy had been murdered and appealed to the Governor to dismiss Janaki's ministry immediately. The protesting AIADMK MLAs, along with the local Congress members, met the Governor and gave a detailed report of what had transpired. The Governor in turn sent his report to the Centre, recommending that the situation in Tamil Nadu demanded the dismissal of the government and the proclamation of emergency. The Centre accepted the Governor's recommendation.

The turning point that Jayalalithaa was hoping for had come sooner than she had expected.

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