Tamil Nadu has had a history of water wars with neighbouring Karnataka and Kerala. And late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa was known as a tough negotiator when it came to rights of Tamil Nadu. Former Karnataka Chief Minister S. M. Krishna and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy recall how tough a negotiator was Ms Jayalalithaa.
'Her questions were like bullets coming out of AK-47’
I take great pride in saying that Jayalalithaa was born in my district -- in my former Parliamentary constituency of Mandya. Melkote is predominantly a religious place. Jayalalithaa made it in films - in Kannada first- and she moved to Tamil Nadu. For a long time, she was one of the most sought-after heroines in Tamil especially as a pair to late MGR. She was multi-talented personality; she was a good Bharatanatyam artiste and she was also a very articulate person. When she first came to the Rajya Sabha, I was a minister of state in the Indira Gandhi government. Like bullets coming out of AK-47, she used to ask questions It was so difficult to meet her points. And then we both became CMs and we had many encounters. And I remember very vividly when G.K.Moopanar passed away in Chennai I was one of those who represented the Congress at the funeral at the directions of Hon’ble Sonia Gandhi. Jayalalithaa spoke to me in Kannada and she was very affectionate. She impressed me and then subsequently I met her during A B Vajpayee’s tenure as Prime Minister, which coincided with my tenure as Chief Minister of Karnataka. We have had Cauvery problem and Vajpayee had summoned both of us to settle the issue and I thought that she would be as soft as when I met her during Moopanar’s funeral. But the Jayalalithaa I found in front of Vajpayee was totally different. True to her conviction, she represented Tamil Nadu every inch and she would not give up an inch for anybody. Well, we have had our rough arguments and there have been instances where she staged a walkout during Vajpayee’s arbitration on Cauvery waters. I have been amazed at the kind of adulation that she has in Tamil Nadu and that’s why I said am proud that a woman from my district went to Tamil Nadu and she has been able to leave a mark which no other leaders except C N Annadurai and MGR have been able to. True to the tradition of those two great personalities, Jayalalithaa has emerged as a darling of the masses of Tamil Nadu. There is a big void in Tamil Nadu and O Pannerselvam, who has acted as CM a couple of times before, would need wishes from all of us and I wish him well. I offer my homage to this great personality Jayalalithaa.
— (S. M. Krishna, former Karnataka chief minister and ex-external affairs minister)
‘Despite issues, she was always for good relations with Kerala’
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was an able administrator with a kind heart to the poor people. She had executed so many welfare schemes for the poor and the needy. She was a wonderful politician and she loved people from all southern states. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have always shared cordial relations for a very long and Jayalalithaaji was very keen on keeping the relations in a very good way. Even though there were some problems between the two states on sharing of waters, there was never a moment the Chief Minister spoke ill of any (neighbouring state). She did put her foot down to ensure that the rights of people of Tamil Nadu are protected, but always loved the people of Kerala very much. We have lost a very able administrator and a good Chief Minister. Definitely, she is a leader of the masses and she was capable of solving very complex issues. There were disputes between the two states, but it never affected the people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. And Jayalalithaa was truly a mass leader and we have lost a good soul. May she rest in peace.
— Oommen Chandy, former Chief Minister of Kerala