The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific. This post features Ms. Jayalalithaa Jayaram, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in the Republic of India.
Who is she?
Jayalalithaa Jayaram is the current Chief Minister of the Indian State of Tamil Nadu, and former film star in Indian cinema from the early 1960s through 1980. As the current head of the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party, she has been elected to the position of Chief Minister on three occasions, most recently in 2011. Jayalalithaa derives most of her support from ethnic Tamils and the lower class, and is known for her anti-Sri Lanka sentiments.
Why is she in the news?
When Sri Lankan military officers were reported to be receiving training from the Indian Government in August, Jayalalithaa wrote several letters to PM Manmohan Singh and publicly urged that the training cease and the officers be sent home. Jayalalithaa contends that recent attacks on Indian fishermen in the Palk Straights were carried out by the Sri Lankan navy. Despite her protests, New Delhi said that training would continue. Jayalalithaa responded by ordering home two Sri Lankan football teams visiting Tamil Nadu for exhibition matches, suspended the stadium officer for granting such permission, and issued instructions not to allow any further Sri Lankan teams into the state.
What can we expect?
Jayalalithaa will likely continue to be an outspoken advocate for ethnic Tamils and pressure New Delhi to limit its interactions with the Sri Lankan government. Given her streak of independent action and New Delhi’s refusal to cede to her demands, it is not implausible that she will continue to maintain an critical stance towards Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu. This will continue to affect the improvement of bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka, and could also agitate the still palpable ethnic grievances lingering from the recent Sri Lankan Civil War.