Today marks the day when legendary actor-turned politician J. Jayalalithaa was assaulted in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. On March 25 1989, Jayalalithaa, Leader of the Opposition and the first woman in the state to occupy that post at that time, was assaulted in the Tamil Nadu Assembly when violence erupted between members of her party and MLAs of Karunanidhi's DMK.
Her close aide Natarajan's (Sasikala's husband) house had been raided after a case of cheating was filed on him. An 'unidentified messenger' submitted Jayalalithaa's letter of resignation to the Speaker M Tamilkudimagan who accepted it against the rules. Further, the letter was leaked to the press.
A week later, three-time Chief Minister Karunanidhi, was about to present the budget (he also held the Finance portfolio) when the Opposition protested against this. The situation soon got out of control. There are different accounts of what happened next, but it was reported that Jayalalitha walked out of the assembly with her saree torn.
She left the Assembly incensed and humiliated, vowing that she would return only as a chief minister. Two years down the line, she threw Karunanidhi off the CM seat and swept to power.
Incidentally, the trailer of Jayalalitha’s biopic ‘Thalaivi’ was released on March 23 which had a scene on the incident. The trailer showed Jayalalithaa’s (played by Kangana Ranaut) saree being allegedly pulled.
However, the incident was a defining moment in Jayalalithaa's career. The same year saw her rise in politics especially after the death of former chief minister M G Ramachandran – aka MGR whom she was close with.
Fondly called Amma (mother), she led as Chief Minister of the southern state from 1991 to 1996.
Her party, AIADMK, secured a landslide victory in 2001; but she could assume her role as CM only after clearing her corruption charges in 2003, held the position till 2006 and won again in the 2011 and 2016 elections.
It is important to note that despite criminal cases and corruption scandals, Jayalalithaa was a leader who heeded to problems of the poor and delivered practical solutions. Most importantly, she stood tall among the male-dominated political mesh of the state, with male leaders touching her feet in sycophancy having become a norm during her time in power.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)