Jayalalithaa Jayaram sentenced in Bangalore

9/28/2014 – She was a famous actress and singer, the "heart throb of Tamil movies". Then she became Chief Minister of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Yesterday she was arrested in a disproportionate assets case originally filed against her 18 years ago. Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years in prison and a one billion Rupee fine. Why do we report this? There is a chess connection.

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Jayalalithaa – actress and politician

Jayalalithaa Jayaram (born February 1948), is an Indian politician and a fromer Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. She held the office of Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996, briefly in 2001, from 2002 to 2006 and from 2011 to September 2014. She was a popular actress in Tamil cinema before her entry into politics, having appeared in the lead form in over 140 Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada films. Her film career started while she was still a 15-year-old student of the Bishop Cotton Girl's School in Bangalore. It included an English language film, Epistle, released in 1961. Jayalalithaa was the first heroine to appear in skirts in Tamil films. She went on to win National Film and Best Actress awards.

Above you can see vintage footage of Jayalalithaa the actress in the 1967 blockbuster movie Thaaikku Thalaimagan. If you get hooked you can watch the whole movie – all two hours and 26 minutes of it, here. You can also spend a lot of time watching dozens fascinating Youtube videos (it's really another world) with the actress, including this slightly racy one one of the "heart throb of Tamilnadu movies".

The conviction and sentence

Today national and international news sources are full of the story of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's conviction and arrest on a disproportionate assets case originally filed against her eighteen years ago. On 27 September 2014 she was awarded a four-year jail term in Parappana Agrahara prison, Banglore, by a Special Court in Bangalore and fined Rs 100 crore (= one billion Rupees = US $16 million).

BBC thinks "many Indians will applaud the conviction of Tamil Nadu's chief minister – after years of evading justice – in the hope it is another move towards cleaning up the country's notoriously criminalised political system." On the other hand Jayalalitha's supporters were deeply distressed after the verdict, saying she has played a key role in the economic development of Tamil Nadu. Riots have broken out in Bangalore. Currently there are over eight thousand reports on the arrest and conviction of Jayaram Jayalalithaa in Google News, in addition to video footage showing the arrest and the reaction of critics and supporters.

But why, we hear some of you ask, are we reporting on this Indian political scandal on our news page? Well, because there is a chess connection – certainly not to the disproportionate assets case for which the Chief Minister has been convicted, but to the person herself. Jayaram Jayalalithaa has played a very active role in promoting chess in South India.

Background in chess

Jayalalithaa Jayaram has been deeply involved in the staging of the first ever World Championship match in India. It came to fruition in her second attempt. In July 2011 it was announced that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has accepted to stage the Anand versus Gelfand World Chess title match either in April or in May of 2012. The budget for the event, which was to be Rs. 20 Crore (Rs 200 million = €2.57 million = US $3.3 million), would be sponsored by the Tamil Nadu Government.

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in negotiations with Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa

In October 2011 we reported that following the evaluation of the bids for the World Chess Championship Match 2012 FIDE had awarded the organization of the match to the Russian Chess Federation. The match was subsequently held in May 2012 in Moscow with a prize fund of US $ 2,550,000, marginally more than the prize sum offered in Chennai. In the announcement there was a sweetner for the Indian Chess Federation:

In view of the commitment shown by the AICF and the appreciation of FIDE towards the development of chess in India, the AICF would be given a first option of three months following the match in Moscow, to make a proposal for the organization of the World Chess Championship Match 2013.

As you know Anand won the match against Gelfand and returned to Chennai to a tumultuous welcome – and to a special cash prize from the government: two crores Rupees (290,000 Euros or US $360,000), sanctioned by the Chief Minister or Chennai J. Jayalalithaa.

In August 2011 Chief Minister Jayalalithaa told the Chennai Assembly that her government was bidding for the 2013 World Championship between Vishwanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen to Chennai, and that the city would put up 290 million Rupees for the event. In April 2013 a memorandum of understanding was signed by FIDE on one side with the All India Chess Federation and the Tamil Nadu State Chess Association (as organiser) on the other for the Anand v Carlsen match to be staged at Chennai from Nov 6-26, 2013 – which it duely was.

The World Championship Opening Ceremony in Chennai was held on November 7th 2013 in the massive Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, with 6000 visitors in attendance.

When J. Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, is also greeted with loud cheers, celebrating her
promotion of sport, including chess, which she has made a top priority in the province's agenda.

For chess enthusiasts the most important part of the evening:
the drawing of colours, which was officiated by the Chief Minister

During the World Championship itself we saw giant posters of J. Jayalalithaa all over the city

At the closing ceremony the Chief Minister, together with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov,
awarded the crown to the new World Champion Magnus Carlsen...

... and the runner-up silver platter to Vishwanathan Anand.

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ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 3/2/2015 04:22
dear friends.....dr.jayalalitha is an ardent lover and a great patron of sports and other youth-centered activities. forget about politics.....ask the insiders for more details.....kindly don't come to hasty conclusions!
Najdork Najdork 9/30/2014 12:02
Looks like the money for chess comes from "shady" sources, while the chess related businesses (like chessbase) that logically could have an interest in sponsoring and giving back to chess stay miles away, because they know it would be unprofitable.
Philip Feeley Philip Feeley 9/29/2014 06:22
"disproportionate assets" Is that just a fancy phrase for tax evasion?
Wastrel Wastrel 9/28/2014 11:05
She was "awarded a four-year jail term in Parappana Agrahara prison...." Really, I must take issue with the choice of words. A prison sentence is hardly an "award." Thanks for the laugh.
Querfeldein Querfeldein 9/28/2014 10:01
Adi, I strongly disagree. As long as chess receives significant funding from dictators, oligarchs, or corrupt politicians, legitimate sponsors will stay way clear. If allegations of corruptions come to light, let's not shoot the messenger!

Of course, there are also a few legitimate sponsors in chess, Tata Steel to name just one positive example. However, if we want to attract new corporate sponsors which are bound by strict compliance regulations, we have to be a lot more transparent. The image of professional chess will improve not by keeping quiet about corruption, but by avoiding it in the first place. It's unfortunate that Fide cannot really be seen to take a leadership role.
J Nayer J Nayer 9/28/2014 05:45
His name is Ilyumzhinov and I suspect that your mind is so closed that you cannot imagine that it is coincidence.
juanviches juanviches 9/28/2014 12:31
It seems Ilyumyinov goes from corrupt to corrupt. Coincidence??