So what stopped Jayalalithaa from carrying on as chief minister in 1996? Simple: a traffic snarl.
The man who plotted her downfall was among those caught in that massive jam that day in 1992, four years before Jayalalithaa’s first stint as Tamil Nadu’s chief executive ended.
That man was Rajnikant, who — if a recently released biography of the southern superstar is to be believed — was so disgusted with his Poes Garden neighbour’s imperious ways that he decided to support rebel Congress leader G.K. Moopanar.
The biography, The Name Is Rajinikanth, recalls how Jayalalithaa’s manner of “living life queen-size” would spill onto the streets of Chennai, blocking roads every time her motorcade zoomed past.
“Rajinikanth’s car is stopped suddenly,” writes Gayathri Sreekanth, a Chennai-based ophthalmologist who penned the biography peppered with anecdotes about how Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, a Bangalore bus conductor with origins in Maharashtra, transformed into superstar Rajnikant.
“A senior uniformed police officer taps his car window. The driver lowers it,” Sreekanth writes. “Sorry, Sir,” the policeman says. “No traffic jam can move until the CM’s entourage drives past the road.”
“When will that happen?” asks Rajnikant.
“Ahem! Maybe, in half an hour from now, Sir.”
“I am sure no car is so big to take half an hour. Why don’t you allow the crowd and vehicles to move until then?”
“Sorry, Sir, orders.”
“Are you deliberately stopping me?
“Restless” and angry, “and unable to wait indefinitely”, the actor’s “sharp mind devises a way out”, the biographer records.
Rajnikant stepped out of the car, walked towards a “box shop”, bought a packet of 555, leaned against a lamppost and lit a cigarette.
Within seconds, people were making a “beeline” for the screen star who seemed to have appeared from nowhere.
Dr Radhakrishnan Road soon became an “umbrella of human heads”.
Aware that Jayalalithaa’s motorcade was minutes away, the police officer in charge of the area’s traffic rushed towards Rajnikant and requested him to move away.
“Sir,” the actor replied, “I’m waiting for her to pass. I don’t mind waiting.”
That incident was one of the “many reasons” Rajnikant openly voiced support for the alliance between the Tamil Maanila Congress, the breakaway group Moopanar formed just before the 1996 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, and the DMK, says the book.