CHENNAI: Just five days ahead of the scheduled date for the 1991 Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a LTTE suicide bomber when the leader was campaigning in Tamil Nadu. This turned the entire political scene against the DMK, which until then had gained the sympathy of people as the Union government had dismissed its government without a valid reason.
From May 26, the poll was rescheduled to June 15. These few days were enough for AIADMK and its then ally Congress to hammer a heated campaign against DMK. Both the parties centred their rhetoric on the perceived proximity of DMK to the LTTE. When the results were out, AIADMK had won 164 seats and Congress 60. DMK managed to win just two, its worst performance ever since the party started contesting elections in 1957. The election marked the emergence of Jayalalithaa as an independent leader from the shadows of her mentor MGR.
Jayalalithaa’s first order as Chief Minister was to shut down the low-price liquor shops that were opened by the previous DMK regime. All Womens Police Stations, and Cradle Baby Scheme which aimed at preventing female infanticide were among the schemes brought in by Jayalalithaa.
Another historic achievement of Jayalalithaa’s regime was safeguarding of 69 per cent reservation system in the State. Following a Supreme Court’s verdict that the total reservation quota should not exceed 50 per cent, the system followed in Tamil Nadu was under threat. The State government passed Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act in 1993 and got the President’s approval of it too. This Act protected the 69 per cent reservation as followed in the State.
Jayalalithaa’s rule was also infamous for extensive use of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). Opposition party members and social activists were arrested under the draconian law.
Among the incidents that left a black mark on the regime was the death of 48 people in the stampede when she and her close aide Sasikala were in Kumbakonam to take the holy dip in the Mahamaham tank there. The most infamous was the extravagant wedding of Jayalalithaa’s foster son VN Sudhakaran in 1995.
This regime was also the period when actor Rajinikanth became more visible in the political scene. He even tried to convince the Congress national leadership at the time against forming an alliance with AIADMK. In DMK, its unquestionable leader M Karunanidhi met the toughest challenge to his leadership from Vaiko, who subsequently launched a new party, MDMK.
Jayalalithas had also earned the unique distinction of being the first Chief Minister of the State, except K Kamaraj, to have completed the full five-year term. The government’s survival was also helped by the landmark 1994 Supreme Court verdict in the SR Bommai case curtailing the abuse of Article 356 under which the Centre can dismiss the State governments. This paved way for stable governments in Tamil Nadu.
Seats won/ Vote share
- Total seats: 234 (Year 1991)
- AIADMK: 164 (44.39%)
- Congress: 60 (15.19%)
- DMK: 02 (22.46%)
- MGR Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam: 02 (1.51%)
- PMK: 01 (5.89%)
- CPI: 01 (1.24%)
- CPM: 01 (3.15%)
- Indian Congress Socialist: 01 (0.23%)
- Janata Dal: 01 (1.69%)
- Independent: 01
Cabinet colleagues of Jayalalithaa
The cabinet colleagues of Jayalalithaa included VR Nedunchezhian, KS Krishnaswamy, SD Somasundaram, RM Veerappan, K Rajaram, C Aranganayagam, S Muthusamy, KA Sengottaiyan, EA Madhusoodhanan, S Kannappan, Azhagu Thirunavukkarasu, Ku Pa Krishnan, TM Selvaganapathy, Mohamed Asif, R Indira Kumari, M Anadhan, D Jayakumar, S Nagoor Meeran and G Viswanathan