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One wedding and four convictions, the unravelling of Jayalalithaa

Back in 1995, much before India’s unapologetic embrace of ritz, one of the country’s top politicians staged a wedding for her foster son, a show of such royal opulence that it was to ultimately prove to be her political undoing.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2014 10:28 IST
Krittivas Mukherjee
CM-Jayalalithaa-is-seen-through-the-mirror-of-a-car-as-she-comes-out-of-her-house-in-Chennai-to-appear-before-a-Bangalore-court-for-the-verdict-AP-Photo
CM-Jayalalithaa-is-seen-through-the-mirror-of-a-car-as-she-comes-out-of-her-house-in-Chennai-to-appear-before-a-Bangalore-court-for-the-verdict-AP-Photo

Back in 1995, much before India’s unapologetic embrace of ritz, one of the country’s top politicians staged a wedding for her foster son, a show of such royal opulence that it was to ultimately prove to be her political undoing.

Charges of corruption were already swirling around Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, but the wedding condensed years of outlandish display of sudden wealth into a moment of opulent mayhem.

It gave credibility to those charges, turned her into a figure of contempt for many and triggered a series of legal cases that culminated in her conviction 18 years later on Saturday. Three others were also convicted.

By the time Jayalalithaa planned the wedding of her then foster son, VN Sudhakaran, her personality cult matched only her vast personal wealth.

The wedding gig had be to larger than life.

Read: Jayalalithaa sentenced to 4 years in jail in corruption case

Ignoring criticism she had turned large parts of the city into a private theme park, thousands of Jayalalithaa’s party workers built a cardboard and papier-mache marquee that covered whole avenues in central Chennai. Hundreds of eight-storey high cut-outs bearing her image loomed over Chennai as some 100,000 of her supporters bussed into the city to celebrate.

At least 12,000 of the guests, their invitations inscribed in silver salvers, sat down to a wedding lunch, served by thousands of cooks and waiters, most of them party workers.

For entertainment, there were tumbling acrobats, performing horsemen, truckloads of flowers. About 20,000 policemen stood on special duty as the bride, the granddaughter of Tamil movie legend Shivaji Ganesan, and the groom exchanged garlands.

Read: Adored and despised, halo falls off Amma

But it was not an event to be financed on a chief minister's pay which was, back then, about Rs 11,000 a month. She had, however, said that she drew only one rupee monthly.

After a local court began hearing the cases against her, officials had the laborious task of cataloguing her jewellery collection - five big suitcases full of precious necklaces, rings, bangles, icons and earrings. One elegant waistband held 2,389 diamonds, as well as 18 emeralds and 9 rubies, according to media reports at the time.

The waistband was one of the gifts to the couple in that ostentatious 1995 wedding.

Read:Vintage Jayalalithaa: a politician of many colors captured in 20 rare photos