It took the Governor of Tamil Nadu C Vidyasagar Rao nine days since the rebellion by O Paneerselvam in inviting A Palanisamy to form the AIADMK government in Chennai. It dashed the hopes of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s loyalist O Paneerselvam who lost the race in the wake of V K Sasikala taking a firm grip of the Dravidian party following her recent appointment as its all powerful general secretary.
Palanisamy was administered the oath of office and secrecy by the Governor and urged to prove his majority on the floor of the state assembly within 15 days. All the 124 odd legislators kept at a resort on the outskirts of Chennai reportedly under duress attended the swearing in ceremony.
Prior to all this amid the attendant drama, the Supreme Court busted Sasikala’s ambitions of becoming the chief minister of Tamil Nadu last Tuesday by convicting her and two others in the Rs 66 crore disproportionate assets case. A new dimension has been added to the power struggle in the AIADMK having already split the party. The Apex court rejected Sasikala’s application seeking a week’s time to sort out matters in her party before surrendering in Bengaluru for completing the remaining period of her four-year term in jail.
This puts the brakes on Sasikala, 61, for at least a decade from holding any public office or contesting elections. Nevertheless, she has sought to turn the AIADMK into her family fiefdom along with her hushand M Natarajan and other relatives described as the “”Mannargudi mafia””. She ensured one of Amma’s and her loyalists Palanisamy being installed as the legislature party leader facilitating him to stake claim for the chief minister’s job. Having achieved this Sasikala has ensured her vice like grip on the AIADMK seeking to snuff out any challenge.
The reinduction of her nephew T T V Dinakaran as the deputy general secretary and S Venkatesh into the party on the specious plea that they had submitted their apologies to Amma is a case in point. Dinakaran is expected to be made a cabinet rank minister in the Palanisamy ministry.
All of them have returned to the party fold overnight as it were after having been expelled by the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa in 2011. It is apparent Sasikala will be calling the shots while serving her sentence in jail despite the cadres of the AIADMK having strong reservations about ‘Chinamma’ as she is known.
In a prelude to tightening her grip on the AIADMK, Sasikala summarily expelled acting chief minister Paneerselvam and at least ten others from the primary membership of the AIADMK. It was widely believed after Sasikala’s conviction that the decks had been cleared for Paneerselvam but that was not to be.
Eyebrows are being raised about Sasikala and her family occupying Jayalalithaa’s sprawling Poes garden residence in Chennai and carrying out their machinations from there. Already tongues are wagging in this regard even as Paneerselvam had announced that he will turn the late Amma’s residence into a museum. Governor Vidyasagar Rao has been vindicated for biding his time till the Supreme Court gives its verdict in the disproportionate assets case. Motives were attributed to him initially for dragging his feet in not installing Sasikala as the chief minister. There is a sigh of relief that the political stalemate and administrative uncertainty has ended in Tamil Nadu.
After her conviction Sasikala has inevitably lost the coveted office of chief minister. Public perception appears to have gone against her with hardly any supporters assembled at the Poes garden residence when Sasikala’s convoy drove to Bengaluru in the forenoon on February 15.
Paneerselvam has not thrown in the towel in this game of political oneupmanship. In a smart move he has secured the support of Jayalalithaa’s neice Deepa Jayakumar. Sasikala deliberately kept her at an arm’s length from Amma even while the latter was seriously ill in Apollo hospital. Deepa has been drawing crowds of AIADMK sympathisers since Jayalalithaa’s death. The Apex court’s verdict upheld the order of the trial court which found all the accused guilty. That has lent credence to Jayalalithaa indulging in corruption as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
The message from the Supreme Court is unmistakable. The high and mighty, however influential, can be brought to book without getting away scot free all the time. The malaise afflicting the AIADMK is that Jayalalithaa never thought of having in place a second rung leadership for a smooth of transition of power. She assiduously ran the party with an iron grip. The question is can Sasikala create the charisma of Amma? Impartial observers have grave doubts in this regard. As Jayalalithaa’s confidant for three decades it is evident the cadres of the Dravidian party have strong reservations about ‘chinamma’ smoothly stepping into the shoes of Jayalalithaa.
The unsavoury developments in the AIADMK following Amma’s death has created the space for another dynamic Dravidian party coming to the fore or the national parties seeking to create space for themselves in the southern state. Tamil Nadu has been the preserve of the two Dravidian parties — AIADMK and DMK — for nearly four decades which is bound to change. Jayalalithaa’s death resulted in a rudderless ship being rocked by turbulence. The prevailing crisis in Tamil Nadu provides an opportunity for the two main Dravidian parties to change their style of functioning necessitating a generational shift in leadership.
The administration is virtually at a standstill since Jayalalithaa’s death late at night on the fifth of December. The discriminating believe the morally right course in the southern state is to go in for fresh assembly elections. That is what the legislators do not want as they got elected in May last year when Amma managed a second successive term at Fort St George in Chennai. The legislators want to serve the five-year term rather than have a snap poll as they have not completed even one year.”