The moment Narendra Modi became Prime Minister designate of India, the Lankan Government’s official spokesman, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, could not contain himself with glee at the prospect of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa being negated in the new power equation and getting her comeuppance. From his weekly rostrum he declared to the media that [...]


Jayalalithaa raised to kick up dust for Lanka


The moment Narendra Modi became Prime Minister designate of India, the Lankan Government’s official spokesman, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, could not contain himself with glee at the prospect of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa being negated in the new power equation and getting her comeuppance.

From his weekly rostrum he declared to the media that with Modi winning handsomely, the central government’s dependence on Jayalalitha had considerably lessened and was even nonexistent. Jayalalithaa had been turned into a has been, had become a spent force.

True enough, at least on the face of it. Having swept the southern Indian state with an unprecedented win of 37 seats of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state, her triumph seemed pyrrhic. Modi had secured a landslide victory throughout the nation which had placed him on India’s throne unfettered. The dazzling encrusted gems that glittered in his crown were his own. The light that radiated from that high pedestal emanated from his own star.

But the reality was somewhat different to that which was perceived in Colombo by Mr. Rambukwella. In his understandable eagerness to jump for joy over the apparent end of Lanka’s sworn female foe, he ignored the fact that though Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP had secured a ‘stand alone’ majority in the Lok Sabha it was desperately short of votes in the Upper House, the Rajya Sabha; and may well need the seats Jayalalithaa commanded there. Furthermore he may have been unaware of the power play existing in India between the centre and the state governments, where all powerful chief ministers zealously guarded their domains, unlike the puppets in Lanka’s provinces. Not even the assurance extended to Jayalalithaa by Modi two days after being declared Prime Minister-elect that “there will be absolute cooperation between the Governments of India and Tamil Nadu” could put a damper on Rambukwella’s natural elation.

Hailing the election verdict as a ‘blessing for Lanka’, he told reporters, “We are very happy that there is a very strong government and Prime Minister-elect Modi does not have to depend on any other party for his majority. This means even if Jayalalithaa had won 37 out of 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, she would not be in a position to influence the Centre,”

Jayalalithaa meeting Premier Modi

Given the distance, he may not have been able to discern and glean the gleam of fiery light in Jayalalithaa’s flashing eye when he described her imagined demise as the fourth blessing for an island already thrice blessed. For jacketed in her breast would have risen a fury hell itself could not match and would have spilled over in vitriolic flow when she considered how fates could deal the unexpected cruel blow and the knife could not only be plunged but twisted by enemies across the Strait.

There she was that May morning ruling her Tamil Nadu state three times larger than Lanka; the population of which was more than treble that of this small island in her backyard. She may have won the backing of over 90 per cent of the people’s support as evidenced by the election result but for all her rise and importance as the undisputed leader of the Dravidian people of India, the quirks of fate had so ordained that she could not attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new prime minister of India due to Sri Lanka’s President managing to sneak an invite into the inauguration enclosure; and there to hobnob with India’s who’s who while she was left out to sulk alone in the cold.

In such a terrible state of a depressed mind, to see a Lankan Minister doing a victory dance on her presumed grave before the world media would have served as the last straw and turned her tresses into Medusa’s snakes tangled in rage. She would have planned her revenge to teach Lanka a lesson for this unbecoming display of euphoria over her temporary setback and bided her time to say, “Vengeance is mine. And last Friday she got her wish to relish her dish of revenge served piping hot on a platter by the Lankan

What would have been a trivial article of no consequence churned out by a government propagandist had it been published in a general newspaper became, when published in the Government’s own defence web site, almost scriptural in character and assumed solemn sacredness as the published word. India’s sledgehammer response revealed she treated the flurry as if she had been hit with a nuke missile.

Not even a few hours the offensive article had appeared on Indian computer monitors, the Empire struck back against the mouse that squeaked. While all Tamil parties irrespective of political differences, immediately rallied behind her and took to the streets in protests over what they termed a ‘scurrilous, derogatory, offensive’ article which ‘demeaned not only Jayalalithaa but Modi too’ and “was made more condemnable by it being published by the official defence ministry web site,” the Tamil Nadu prima donna Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to Modi demanding him to “direct the External Affairs Ministry to summon the Sri Lankan High Commissioner and ‘clearly express India’s displeasure’ over the manner in which the article was hosted and “seek an unconditional apology from the Government of Sri Lanka.”

With all the hurt of the injured innocent Jayalalithaa declared in her SOS to Modi: “It was completely unacceptable that a highly objectionable article was published on the official website. The added visual image on the website is clearly aimed at denigrating the elected leaders of India, the world’s largest democracy, and particularly a 66-year-old woman political leader of many years’ standing. These are affronts to India which cannot be ignored or lightly brushed aside. The visual rendering on the homepage of the official website just above the link is highly objectionable as it depicted both the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in a very trivialised, derogatory and disrespectful manner.”

Within minutes of the protests being known, the offensive article was removed from the defence ministry website. The Lankan Government issued an unqualified apology to Jayalalithaa and Modi as demanded. And just when it was thought that the offended lady’s wrath had been appeased and her trampled sensitivities balmed and mollified by so gallant an apology, the southern siren wailed to Modi:”The damage has been done.”

But worse was to follow. The Indian External Ministry spokesperson told a media briefing that her ministry officials had acted with alacrity and, though they were satisfied by the immediate removal of the article from the website and the apology that followed, India would take further action if required. On Monday proceedings in the Indian Upper House the Rajya Sabha were disrupted twice when members of Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK stormed the chairman’s podium raising the issue. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the Raj Sabha she will summon the Lankan High Commissioner and convey to him India’s strong condemnation of the derogatory article.
The Lankan High Commissioner in New Delhi Sudharshan Seneviratne was summoned to the External Affairs Ministry later and was issued with a protest against the article.

The “anger and concerns” among parliamentarians on the issue were conveyed to him in the strongest possible words by the Joint Secretary in-charge of Sri Lanka division in MEA, the Press Trust of India reported. On Tuesday the Lankan President himself was moved to tell media heads that he regretted the publication of the article and that he had called for a report.

Not bad for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa who was written off contemptuously by the Lankan Government’s official spokesman barely three months ago as a non-entity, a past-the-shelf-life loaf not worthy of being treated as a force to reckon with. But that is Jayalalithaa’s forte, her lucky star which bestows her ability to spring back without notice and turn the tables on her opponents out of the blue. Where more rain had been predicted, she was suddenly bathing in sun lit streams.

Instead, Friday the 1st turned out to be Lanka’s bleak day of reckoning. If the Government had believed, in all naivety, that Modi’s election landslide buried Jayalalithaa beneath India’s political landscape and her pervasive influence and power to create trouble for Lanka were safely entombed in the BJP earth slip, then last Friday’s faux pas raised her phantom from the valley of the vanquished and brought her spectre once more onto India’s national stage to kick more dust on Lanka’s face.

How Jayalalithaa ousted widow by winning MGR’s coffin battle


Bouncing back from a spell of adversity is nothing new to Jayalalithaa. She had always fought against the odds and come back from each downturn in her life with renewed vitality and vigour.

Perseverance has been her chief virtue and ruthlessness has been her rapier to slash and thrust through each obstacle that stood in her rise to become Tamil Nadu’s first pinup girl and then its powerful chief minister.

Consider how Komalawalli of Mysore changed her name to Jayalalithaa and became the sultry southern siren to take the Tamil film world by storm, and then audaciously usurped demigod M. G. Ramachandran’s political mantle by will and daring, and you will have a fair idea of the mettle she is made of: proven steel that has withstood the test of fire, that has gone through the furnace of life and emerged stronger.

Jayalalithaa was MGR’s heroine in many of his movies

Read now of how she grabbed the AIADMK party’s leadership on the death in 1987 of its founder Tamil film superstar M.G. Ramachandran. For long his favourite actress the then 40-year-old Jayalalithaa stormed the residence of MGR the moment she learnt he had died. On the orders of MGR’s 64-year-old wife Janaki who had remained in her husband’s shadows and had surprisingly laid claim to the leadership, the security personnel at the gate prevented Jayalalithaa from entering but sweet talking her way through she rushed to MGR’s bedroom where he lay dead, only to find the door locked. But she was not daunted. Neither was she dismayed. She was made of sterner stuff and used her acting histrionics to the fullest.

The next day when the body was unveiled for public viewing she placed herself at the head of the coffin and stood standing there for almost a day without budging an inch. To the millions of mourners who filed past the corpse and watched live on television, she appeared as the rightful claimant to the enduring legacy MGR left behind. This is where the buck stopped, she seemed to announce; and, though family members pinched her and even stepped on her toes, she didn’t move a tyre of fat but stood glued to the spot depicting the figure of the grief wracked widowed mistress.

When the time came for the funeral procession to begin, and the body was kept on the gun carriage, Jayalalithaa, without the slightest warning, jumped onto it and held on as the carriage began to move. However this proved too much for MGR’s nephews and they reached out and pulled her and Jayalalithaa ignominiously crashed to the ground. But she rose in triumph the next day when the newspapers reported how she had outmaneuvered MGR’s widow and ousted her in the battle for the coffin and for the AIADMK leadership.

The AIADMK split with MGR’s wife leading one faction and Jayalalithaa commanding the other. Soon Jayalalithaa succeeded in outmaneuvering the widow and the party united under her sole leadership. In the 1991, elections the AIADMK swept the polls and Jayalalithaa became the powerful chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

Earlier this year she was lined by her party as Tamil Nadu’s choice for the prime ministerial post but that high hope faded when it became clear that Modi’s BJP will make the grade. The question was — by how many seats? If the BJP needed a helping hand to form a government, then Jayalalithaa’s Tamil Nadu seats would come in handy. She would be tasked with the role of kingmaker and would bask as the prime minister’s consort and wield enormous power and influence. The way she had watched over MGR’s decaying corpse and claimed a lien over it, so would she have presided over the living symbol of incarnate power and exercised it as her own by right.

But the manifest wishes of this godmother of the LTTE and now Neptune to Indian fishermen were denied her. And on the surface it may seem that way. But to underestimate her prowess and to write her off with a complacent shrug may be to court another bout of embarrassing misjudgments.

Last week Jayalalithaa was raised from the twilight zone of Tamil Nadu to become the centre of attention in a major row between India and Lanka with Lanka forced to crave her indulgence and woo her pardon. Unless an all systems alert prevails on all matters pertaining to Jayalalithaa at the Foreign Ministry, it may not be long before another repeat performance is enacted with Lanka eating humble pie and the 66-year-old Tamil Nadu Chief loving every minute of feeding it.

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