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Monday, May 16, 2011

First Woman to be elected Leader of the Opposition

Jayalalithaa Jayaram (born 24 February 1948) commonly referred to as J. Jayalalitha, is the current Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu, India. She is the incumbent general secretary of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a Dravidian party. She is called Amma (English: Mother) and Puratchi Thalaivi (English: Revolutionary Leader) by her followers.She was a film actor in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi before entering politics.

She was born on 24th February 1948 in Mysore, Karnataka and was named as Komalavalli in a Tamil Iyengar family. She is a native of Srirangam, Trichy.Her father Jeyaram died when she was 2 years old. She had her formal education at the Bishop Cotton Girls' High School in Bangalore. She later moved to Madras State (now Tamil Nadu) along with her mother Sandhya, who ventured as an actress into Tamil cinema. She was then schooled at Sacred Heart Matriculation School (popularly known as Church Park Presentation Convent or Presentation Church Park Convent) in Chennai.She excelled in academics and has claimed that she was offered a scholarship for higher studies from the Government of India but she entered film industry, under the guidance of her mother.

Jayalalitha made her debut as a teenager in a Kannada film titled Chinnada Gombe (1964), which was a major hit and made her star overnight.She also acted in a English movie, Epistle released in 1961, which was produced by Shankar Giri, son of former president of India VV Giri. She acted in a couple of films in Kannada before moving into the Tamil film Industry. She got her first break in Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by C. V. Sridhar. The following year, she made her debut in Telugu cinema through Manushulu Mamathalu. She was perhaps, the first heroine who appeared in Skirts in Tamil films. From 1965-1972 she formed a hit on screen pair with MGR by giving back to back box office hits with films like Aayirathil Oruvan, Muharassi, Chandorodyam , Kavalkaran, Rahasya Police 115, Adimai Pen, Nam Naadu, Kudiyiruntha Koil, Olivilaku, Thaikku Thalaimagan, Mattukkara Velan, Thalaivan, Thedi Vanda Mappillai, Kanavan, Engal Thangam, Kumari Kottam , Raman Thediya Seethai.Except for Annam Ita Kai, the pair had all of their films as box office success. She also worked with B.Saroja Devi in Arasa Kattali.She also acted in suspense films like Naan and comedy films like Galatta Kalyanam.

After pairing opposite MGR in 25 Tamil films, she decided to explore herself by acting opposite other heroes in Tamil films. Her films rarely saw failure at the box office. Her commercially successful films with Sivaji Ganeshan include Pattikada Pattanama, Galatta Kalyanam, Sumathi En Sundari, Enga Mama, Raja and Deiva Magan. Her performances in Soorya Kanthi and Chandrodhayam were critically acclaimed. She continued pairing up with younger heroes like Ravichandran in movies like Bhagdad Perazhagi, Moondrezhuthu, Magarasi and Jaishankar and Vairam in Yaar Nee. Thereby she established herself in the Tamil film industry with the series of box-office hits Nee, Major Chandrakanth and Kandan Karunai. She made her Bollywood debut through Izzat, in which she was paired opposite Dharmendra. She also established her popularity in Telugu films Nayakudu Vinayakudu, Aadarsa Kutumbam, Akka Thamudu, Bharya Biddalu, Shri Krishna Vijayam, Brahmachari, Goodachari 116 and Navarathri. Her last film was Nadhiyai Thedi Vandha Kadal (1980).She has also rendered her voice for few songs in Tamil films.

In 1981, she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1988, marking her entry into the Parliament of India. Her association with politics grew from her association with the Late M. G. Ramachandran (popularly known as M.G.R), a movie star and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, and her position as MGR's disciple helped her become his political heir.After M.G.R's death, she was alienated by a faction of the party who, instead chose to support M.G.R's wife, Janaki Ramachandran. Drawing on her massive popularity, she won the elections to the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly in 1989. Incidentally she became the first woman to be elected Leader of the Opposition. In 1991, following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, just days before the elections, her alliance with the Indian National Congress paid off as a sympathy wave propelled the coalition to a massive victory. She was re-elected to the legislative assembly and became the first elected woman chief minister of Tamil Nadu, serving the full tenure (24 June 1991 - 12 May 1996) (Janaki Ramachandran technically became the first woman chief minister following her husband's death, but she was unelected and presided over a transitional 'caretaker' government).

Due to an anti-incumbency wave, and several allegations of corruption and malfeasance against her and her ministers, she lost power to the D.M.K in 1996, in a landslide defeat. All the ministers in her erstwhile cabinet, including her, were defeated in the elections and six of them even lost their deposits, meaning that they did not even secure the minimum number of votes expected of them. She returned to power with a huge majority in the 2001 elections, having mustered a bigger coalition and defying many pre-poll predictions. In the last assembly elections held in 2006, her party had to relinquish power to the DMK government.But her party the AIADMK again gained power with a landslide victory in the 2011 assembly elections and is the present CM of Tamilnadu.

During her years out of power, she has had to face a number of criminal lawsuits stemming from her first term rule mostly dealing with embezzlement and monetary fraud. In 2001, a specially designated court convicted her of criminal breach of trust and of illegally acquiring governmental property belonging to TANSI, a state-run agency, and sentenced her to five years' imprisonment. She appealed against the sentence to the Supreme Court of India. While the appeal was under judicial consideration, the conviction disqualified her from contesting the 2001 elections. However, having led her party to victory, she controversially became the Chief Minister as a non-elected member of the assembly in Tamil Nadu.

On 21 September 2001, a five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India ruled that "a person who is convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of not less than two years cannot be appointed the Chief Minister of a State under Article 164 (1) read with (4) and cannot continue to function as such". Thereby, the bench decided that "in the appointment of Ms. Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister there has been a clear infringement of a Constitutional provision and that a writ of quo warranto must issue".

In effect, her appointment as Chief Minister was declared null and invalid. Therefore, technically, she was not the Chief Minister in the period between 14 May 2001 and 21 September 2001. O. Panneerselvam, a minister in her party, was subsequently installed as the Chief Minister. However, his government was widely believed to have been puppeted and micro-managed by Jayalalithaa. In 2003, the Supreme Court acquitted her in the specific case, for lack of conclusive evidence to convict her. This cleared the way for her to contest a mid-term poll to the Andipatti constituency, after the elected representative for the seat, gave up his membership. Winning the election by a handsome margin, Jayalalithaa took over the Chief Ministership again. She is still a party in a few criminal litigations, from her first term rule, in the courts in the neighbouring Karnataka state.

After the 2006 assembly elections, O. Panneerselvam was elected the AIADMK legislature party leader and hence the Leader of the Opposition in the assembly after she decided not to attend the assembly except if "absolutely necessary". However, she, by virtue of her strong control over her party, was considered to be the de-facto leader of the opposition in the state. Later that month when all the attending AIADMK MLAs were suspended, she started attending the assembly. She was elected the legislature party leader. Of the 11 corruption cases levied against her in period 1996-2003, she was acquitted in 9. In 2011, she once again became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

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