Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tamil Nadu after Jayalalitaa: Politcs of uncertainity and despair

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

December 6th 2016 witnessed a political funeral  in Chennai, the like of which remains unprecedented. Jayalalithaa was laid to rest on the sands of Marina Beach along aside her political mentor, M G Ramachandran. A Brahmin woman being buried and not being cremated raised eyebrows and the large presence of the Manargudi Mafia in the ceremonies pertaining to the funeral of the Chief Minister did not go down well with the public. However, the treatment given to Deepa, the daughter of the brother of Ms Jajalalithaa was deplorable. She was made to wait a few hours in the rain outside Apollo Hospital to catch a glimpse of her aunt and was turned away by the security. Funerals are very revealing. The present one has already shown that the ruling didpensation in the AIADMK does not want to share the space with the family of the late Chief Minister.

Jayalalithaa was a cinematic icon before she left the arc lights to join politics under the mentorship of MGR. In the Madurai Conference of the AIADMK in 1983, MGR symbolically handed the torch to Jayalalithaa there by indicating that after him the leadership would pass on to his leading lady. Both had acted in nearly 60 films together and the chemistry between them sizzled on the screen. In 1984, Jaylalithaa was elected to the Rajya Sabha and she spent a full term there. This exposure to National politics stood her in good stead as she acquired a national visibility even before she became the leader of the Party in Tamil Nadu after the death of MGR in December 1987.

Jayalalithaa became Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 when she swept into power on the wave created by the revulsion towards the DMK for its alleged proximity to the LTTE. The DMK has not been able to shke off the perception that it allowed the LTTE to take root in Tamil Nadu and the massacre in Kodambakkam only reinforced that opnion. The subsequent death of Durai who was the DGP at the time of the LTTE killings created an aura of suspicion. Her first term was marred by large scale corruption and disregard to the political consequences flowing from her decisions. The sacking of Government servants who participated in a strike was very unpopular and it ensured the total defeat of the AIADMK in the Lok Sabha elections. Being a consummate politician she made tactical alliances even with inveterate opponents like Vai Gopalaswami (Vai Ko) as he is known today, Vijay Kant and others.

In 2011 Jayalalithaa came back to power with a huge majority and in 2016 she was returned to power. And she in the only Tamil politician after MGR who has managed this feat. This term was marked by populist schemes like the AMMA branded schemes, AMMA Canteens, AMMA Cement, Amma Pharmacy, AMMA Water etc., These schemes were hugfely popular and cemented her alliance with the electorate in a manner that had not happened before. In 2014, she was convicted and I believe wrongly, in a dis  proportionate assets case in the trial court at Banglore and spent 21 days in jail. Her health strted taking a tailspin since then and Jayalalithaa never recovered for the treatment meted out to her in Bangalore Jail. It is likely that her health issues were deliberately neglected by the jail authorities at the behest of certain political lobbies. In any event having the Chief Minister of a State being prosecuted by another state government is hardly constitutional.

Jayalalithaa will be remembered as a politician who had a link with the elctorate a magical bond that transcended caste, religion and language.