Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tamil Nadu Politics: Sashikala, Paneerselvam and the Ghost of things past

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

The death of Jayalalithaa has created a real storm in Tamil politics. The AIADMK with 134 MLAs in the house is poised to split between the two warring factions:Sasikala and O Paneerselvam. The fact is that the Party and its higher leadership has lost all credibility will make the task of polituical recoverry extremely difficult. Added to the political turmoil unleashed by the death of Jayalalithaa is the mass protest on the issue of jallikkattu. The crowds of young people who protested on the beach of Marina were not displaying their love for the sport of bull taming. They were expressing their anguish at the sudden and disastrous turn in the politics of Tamil Nadu. In fact the restoration of the sport following the promulgation of an Ordinance by the Chief Minister, O Pannerslvam hardly caused a ripple in Chennai, the ground zero of the protests.

O Paneersevam, the acting Chief Minister, was the choice of Jayalalithaa whenever she had to vacte the position due to frequent conviction in corruption cases. In fact, in all the cases in which the late CM was procecuted, the real beneficiary was Sashikala Natrajan and her extended family which goes under the sobriquet, Managudi Mafia. The strangle hold acquired by Sashkala over the party can be gauged from the fact that 129 MLAs have come out in open suppport of her. While O Pannerselvam has the support of a small handful of MLAs, there is no doubt that the rank and file, the cadres of the AIADMK are solidly behind him. The corruption cases against Sashikala are not the only rerasons for her unpopularity in the AIADMK. The real reason is that Jayalalithaa herself had expelled Sashikala from the Party for anti party activities and threw her out of the Poes Garden Residence in 2011 and was admitted back in favor only after giving an abject letter of apology in which Sashikala shook off all ties with her family. Indeed one of the factors that contributed to the defeat of the AIADMK in the 1996 election was the excesses committed during the wedding of Dinakaran, the nephew of Sasikala. The vulgar display of ill gotten wealth was so revolting that AIADMK paid a political price for that mistake. It is rather surprising that even with this legacy, Sashikala was able to seize control over the Party and have herself declared the General Secretary of the AIADMK. In fact her agrteement with Paneerselvam was that he would not be disturbed in his position as Chiel Minister.

The successful manner in which Paneerselvam handles the Jallikkattu crisis and earlier in overseeing the relief work following the Vardha Cyscle that hit Chennai in December 2016 alarmed the Sasikala faction. It became clear as daylight that if he is allowed a free hand, he would get the mandate of the people. From that point onwards effort was made to destabalize Paneerselvam. A section of the senior leaders began asking for the installation of their "Chinamma" as the Chief Minister. And an unlikely rebel was born.

Paneerselvan made a dramtic appearance before the grave of Jayalalithaa on the Marina Beach and "meditated" near her grave for 40 minutes and  announced to the waiting crowd that he had always been the choice of Jayalalithaa to fill her post whenever vacancy arose. It is now clear thta sensing popular anger at the manner in which Sasikala had usurped the post of General Secretary of the AIADMK and her shamless occupation of the poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa, Paneerselvan raised the banner of revolt. The Governor Vidyasagar Rao did not exactly cover himself in glory by completely neglecting his constitutional duties during the 72 says Jayalalithaa was kept in Apppollo Hospital. Now questions are being asked about the manner of Jayalalithaa's death and the possible involvement of Sasikala in it. Appollo has not come out clean and still there are questions. The rumours that the late Chief Minister was pushed down the stairs in her residence and was brought dead to the hospital on September 22 are making rounds, O Paneerselvam raised this issue in his press conference and speculated about constituting a Judicial Inquiry. It is now quite obvious that Jayalalithaas death has become a controversy due to the mutual recriminations between the rival factions.

As Paneerselavam hardened his stand and Vidyasagar Rao the Governor not showing any haste is settiling the issues stemming from the resignation of O Paneerselvam, Sasikala took all her MLAs hered them in three luxury buses and sequestered them in an exclisive resort on the East Coast Road near Mahabalipuram.

I venture to speculate that the corruption cases against Sashikala will come back to haunt her. Her faction thought that having the position of Chief Minister will protect her. This is very unlikely. Paneerslevam though much weakened as he rebelled only after his own position had become untenable may continue for some time more. Tamil Nadu is heading for a mid term poll.

1 comment:

Prof. Dr. M. Basheer Ahmed Khan said...

Mid term poll is the right thing to happen in TN. Let all the contenders voice their views in the court of the electorate. Let the hard facts and truth surface. The opposition has also not played their cards properly, perhaps thinking that the disappearance of JJ is a good riddance for them. With so many stories doing the rounds, the people of the country have been left to fend for themselves in terms of truth in TN.If this happens in a culturally rich, educated and more involved polity like that of TN, what can we expect elsewhere in the country. It is time the intelligentsia stood up. If the students can stand up for Jellikattu, why not for a cleaner politics in TN. The earlier they did, the better will be for the state of TN and for the country as well.