news Sunday, May 10, 2015 - 05:30
When Subramanian Swamy last year said in a televised interview that he had advised the Sri Lankan government not to release captured boats of Tamil Nadu fishermen, it irked then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa to no end.   Going all guns ablazing against him, not only did she write a letter to Prime Minister Modi criticising the BJP leader for making accusations, she went ahead and filed a defamation case against him for reportedly alleging that many of the boats seized belonged to her fellow resident and aide, Sasikala Natarajan.   Not one to take criticism lightly, Jayalalithaa’s scathing rebuke may have given Swamy the opportunity and interest to jump right back in the picture in the disproportionate assets case for which he had filed the original complaint back in 1996.   Despite not interfering in the case for over a decade, Subramanian Swamy in January paved way to ensure he was back in the thick of things after he filed an application seeking to implead himself in Jayalalithaa’s appeal after her conviction in the disproportionate assets case.   After the Karnataka High Court allowed him to submit written arguments in capacity of being the original complainant and intervenor in the case, Swamy made some damaging statements by calling the former chief minister a ‘financial wizard’.   In his 14 page argument to the court, he makes scathing remarks stating that if Jayalalithaa’s claims of agricultural yields was Rs. 1 lakh per acre, then she must be the most productive farmer in the whole world. He also questions Jayalalithaa’s claims saying that she must have been a financial wizard to have tripled her wealth on a Re. 1 salary per month as CM and despite ceasing to be an actress in 1979.   After perhaps more than a decade, Jayalalithaa and Subramanian Swamy's animosity was out in the open, but they share a long troubled history of friendship and hostility.   It dates back to 1992, and started with the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) case. The chairman of TIDCO was an IAS officer named Chandralekha. She had opposed the divestment of state-owned TIDCO's stakes in Southern Petrochemicals Industries Corporation (SPIC).   Chandralekha argued that this would result in losses for the government, and her opposition made the government pull back its decision. Some weeks later Chandralekha became victim of an acid attack, that left her horribly burned. The Chandralekha case became a huge political controversy in Tamil Nadu as some linked it with the SPIC-TIDCO divestment issue and suspected the hand of powerful people behind the crime.   Chandralekha got support from a politician in Tamil Nadu- Janata party leader Subramanian Swamy. Soon she joined his party and the duo was vocal in their opposition about the AIADMK leader.   In the same year, another controversy broke out as properties belonging to the Tamil Nadu Small Industries Corporation (TANSI) was purchased by Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises, in which Jayalalithaa and Sasikalaa were partners.   Subramanian Swamy was one of the petitioners who approached court alleging that the property was undervalued and sold to the firms, causing a loss of over 3.5 crores to the state government. (Jayalalithaa was acquitted in that case by the Madras High Court in December 2001, and later, the Supreme Court confirmed it in November 2003.)   In October 1992, Swamy filed a petition to the State Governor demanding Jayalalithaa be disqualified as an MLA (Under Article 192 of the Constitution of India), as she was a partner in Jaya Publications, a private company that had entered into a contract with the government.   In 1995, continuing his campaign against Jayalalithaa, he gave a memorandum to the Governor seeking sanction for prosecution for several charges. On April 1, 1995, Governor Channa Reddy gave sanction to prosecute her in two cases – TANSI case and Coal deal.   But Jayalalithaa was not one to keep quiet. In 1995, Swamy created a furore by calling LTTE supremo V. Prabhakaran, an "international pariah"- a term of Tamil origin that is derogatory of Dalits. The Jaya government filed a case against him under the Protection of Civil Rights Act. An India Today profile on Swamy says that in 1995 ‘with the Jayalalithaa government out to arrest him, he was forced to undergo an image makeover, changing to suits and dyeing his hair to evade the police. To mollify the Dalits, he went to the extent of assuring them to get the Oxford English Dictionary to remove the term pariah'.   The slam match continued for many months. Back then Swamy supported a group called 'Nallaatchi Iyakkam' comprising himself, former Assembly Speaker K. Rajaram and few other former AIADMK leaders. When Swamy came to the Sessions Court in connection with filing a complaint, he was heckled by AIADMK cadres, a few of his supporters and members of the Nallatchi Iyakkam were beaten up.   But by then Swamy’s image as an anti-corruption crusader was soaring in the state and he managed to poll more than a lakh votes from Madurai constituency, where he contested from in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections.   It was Subramanian Swamy who also filed a complaint against Jayalalithaa in 1996, alleging that during her tenure as chief minister from 1991 to 1996 , there was a big and disproportionate jump in her wealth.     After the DMK returned to power in 1996, the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption investigated her wealth and filed its own charge-sheet.   Now back to 1996. The first thaw in relations came in December 1996, when Jayalalithaa was arrested and jailed for a few weeks by the Karunanidhi led DMK government that had assumed power that year. Subramanian Swamy had told Rediff in an interview in 1999 that, “Jayalalitha had approached me three years ago when she was in jail, saying she did not want to fight with me any more and she would like my help in her fight against M Karunanidhi. I have nothing personal against anybody, but I told her that I would not withdraw the cases that I had filed against her. And I agreed to work with her if she agreed to be a different person. We worked together but I think a couple of things queered the pitch.”   Later in a surprise move, Jayalalithaa withdrew her candidate in the first Mayoral elections for Chennai city and supported Janata Party candidate Chandralekha. (the acid attack survivor).   Chandralekha lost the election, but the gesture from Jayalalithaa mended the ties between the two for a while. In 1998, she formed an alliance with the Janata party and Swamy who contested from the Madurai seat won during the 1998 general elections.   It was reported then that Jayalalithaa had lobbied hard to make Swamy the finance minister, but Atal Bihari Vajpayee who apparently detested Swamy , did not pay heed.   In April 1999, Swamy hosted the famous tea party that brought together Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Jayalalithaa. Though his intention was to bring down the Vajpayee government, Sonia Gandhi insisted that the Congress would come into picture only if the AIADMK withdraws support. Ultimately, Jaya gave letter of withdrawal of support on April 14, 1999.   Later in the general elections held in 1999, BJP came back to power, Jayalalithaa broke her ties with Swamy.   From 1999 to 2014, Jayalalithaa and Subramaniam Swamy have kept each other at an arm’s length. There have only been minor skirmishes or bursts of support in this period, until now.   Read- What the Karnataka High Court judgment said while acquitting Jayalalithaa