Watch: Jayalalithaa takes on Karan Thapar in hard-hitting 2004 BBC interview

Back in 2004 — following some of her most turbulent years in politics — Jayalalithaa sat down with Karan Thapar for an interview for BBC World’s HARDtalk India. What followed was one of her strongest interviews providing an insight into the mind of the phenomenon called as Amma.

FP Staff December 06, 2016 15:38:31 IST
Watch: Jayalalithaa takes on Karan Thapar in hard-hitting 2004 BBC interview

Tens of thousands of mourners filed past the coffin of Jayaram Jayalalithaa (her name is sometimes spelled Jayalalitha) on Tuesday in an emotional farewell to the former movie star who enjoyed almost god-like status in the state of Tamil Nadu.

The 68-year-old Jayalalithaa, described by her party as the Iron Lady, died late Monday after suffering a massive cardiac arrest at the weekend following a long period of ill health.

Watch Jayalalithaa takes on Karan Thapar in hardhitting 2004 BBC interview

File image of J Jayalalithaa. AFP

Despite being twice jailed over allegations of corruption, the woman known by Tamils simply as Amma, or mother, was a revered figure in her southern fiefdom and one of India's most popular and successful politicians as a populist champion of the poor.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew into the state capital Chennai to pay his own respects, streams of her supporters lined up outside a hall in the centre of the city where her casket was put on display.

Jayalalithaa had earned the loyalty of many voters with a series of populist schemes, including "Amma canteens" that provided lunch for just three rupees (five cents) and vast election-time giveaways that ranged from laptops to kitchen appliances.

Back in 2004 — following some of her most turbulent years in politics — Jayalalithaa sat down with Karan Thapar for an interview for BBC World’s HARDtalk India. What followed was one of her strongest interviews providing an insight into the mind of the phenomenon called as Amma.

Here are a few excerpts:

Jayalalithaa tells Thapar how she felt the media was against her from the start, how she considers herself an unconventional politician and how she thinks she's often misunderstood.

"I prefer to play straight and I prefer speaking the truth. If I appear to be blunt, so be it. Yes, I am misunderstood and the media have a large part to play in this,"she says in the interview.

Things get heated up when Thapar brings up her arrest, vendetta politics and her rival M Karunanidhi.

"It was not vengeance. He was involved in a corruption case," she says discussing the arrest of Karunanidhi who was 77 years old at the time.

She also refuses to discuss Sonia Gandhi saying she has the right to reject any questions.

When Thapar questions her superstition, Jayalalithaa initially denies it, but then goes on to say that she regrets agreeing to do the interview.

"I’m a perfectly rational, sensible, sober, very responsible leader. I can say with confidence that no other chief minister in Tamil Nadu’s history has worked so hard for the development and progress of the state as I have been doing and as I am doing," she continues.

And finally, when concluding the interview, Thapar says it was a pleasure talking to her and extends his hand, she replies saying, "I must say it wasn’t a pleasure talking to you. Namaste," concluding without shaking his hand

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