Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa had an extraordinary political career, but her personal life was equally an enigma. In this short piece, excerpted from Jayalalithaa: Triumphs and Tribulations 1992-2016, B. Kolappan writes about how various people worked closely with her over the years, but none remained in her good books:
At different points in Jayalalithaa’s political and film career, various people worked with her but not everyone remained in her good books.
Early in her acting life, she engaged ‘Film News’ Anandan as her PRO on a regular salary. In fact, she was the first south Indian actor to have a dedicated PRO. They remained friends and in 2013, she financed his book on the filmography of Tamil cinema since 1930.
When she entered politics, veteran journalist Solai earned her confidence. It was MGR who persuaded Solai to work for her. Solai told Vaasanthi, her unofficial biographer, that MGR decided to bring Jayalalithaa into politics since he was unable to devote time to public meetings due to his duties as the Chief Minister.
“He [MGR] asked me to train her to speak. She instantly scored. The DMK was startled by the crowds that came for her meetings. She was capable of tackling M. Karunanidhi’s barbs with effective repartees,” Solai said.
But their friendship did not last long. “She felt Solai was close to MGR and did not display full loyalty to her. Solai himself had told me about it,” said senior journalist Jawahar.
Thuglak Editor ‘Cho’ S. Ramaswamy had a roller coaster relationship with her. Their friendship began when they worked for Y.G. Parthasarathy’s theatre group United Amateur Artists, but soured when ‘Cho’ worked to stitch together an alliance between the DMK and the Tamil Maanila Congress in 1996 and endorsed actor Rajnikanth’s support for the combine.
She openly declared that ‘Cho’ should stop claiming he was her friend. Subsequently, they patched up and he was instrumental in expelling Sasikala and her clan from her Poes Garden residence in December 2011.
For a brief while, a four-member team, headed by psephologist V. Baskaran, played a pivotal role in resurrecting her fortunes after the party’s rout in the 1996 Assembly polls. Baskaran started working for her before the election, and told her the party would lose. It was on his advice that Jayalalithaa sent Sasikala out of her residence. When the AIADMK returned to power in 2001, he was arrested on charges of possessing heroin under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. But the Madras High Court acquitted him, and he died in December 2013.
Dravidar Kazhagam’s K. Veeramani, now a strong critic, was Jayalalithaa’s adviser for many years and even conferred on her the title ‘Samooga Neethi Kaatha Veeranganai’ (The leader who upheld social justice) on her after her government enacted legislation to provide 69 per cent reservation in educational institutions.
Mr. Veeramani was able to maintain his friendship even when she aligned with the BJP in 1998. But later, he became a strong DMK votary…