When In­ner-Party Flaws Fail the Peo­ple

The drama in Tamil Nadu has lessons for us all

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

If a ma­jor­ity of AIADMK leg­is­la­tors choose V K Sasikala as their leader, there is no le­gal bar­rier to this for­mer shadow of J Jay­alalithaa step­ping into her late leader’s chief min­is­te­rial shoes. If that still leaves a bad taste in the mouth not just for some ag­grieved party lead­ers but also for a large sec­tion of Tamil vot­ers, blame the state’s cult of per­son­al­ity pol­i­tics. Both the Dra­vid­ian parties have a func­tional or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture, func­tional com­mit­tees at dif­fer­ent lev­els and full-time cadre. Yet, when it comes to cru­cial matters, the leader alone takes all the de­ci­sions. In the last assem­bly elec­tions, it is widely be­lieved that Sasikala helped an ail­ing Jay­alalithaa choose the party’s can­di­dates. It is not sur­pris­ing, there­fore, that most MLAs read­ily sup­port the per­son who of­fered them pa­tron­age for chief min­is­ter.

Yet, their sup­port will not au­to­mat­i­cally turn into sup­port from the party cadre and the peo­ple who voted for Jay­alalithaa. But if their dis­af­fec­tion falls short of ac­tive re­volt, it can im­pinge on Sasikala’s chief min­is­ter­ship only four years later, at the next assem­bly elec­tions, four years away. By that time, she can hope to have played the game of pa­tron­age and penal­ties to dis­solve op­po­si­tion from within. This sto­ry­line hinges on the for­mal struc­ture and pro­ce­dure in place for choos­ing the chief min­is­ter and for the chief min­is­ter to stay in office. But pol­i­tics does not go by form alone. If the MLAs sense that their sur­vival in pol­i­tics, leave alone re-elec­tion, is at stake, they would be more than happy to have a change of heart. That calls for the AIADMK party to come alive as an or­gan­ism of func­tional democ­racy and re­view its or­gan­i­sa­tional func­tion­ing. Can some­one be el­e­vated as the party’s new gen­eral sec­re­tary, a po­si­tion held, first, by founder M G Ra­machan­dran and then, by Jay­alalithaa, with­out con­sult­ing the wishes and pref­er­ences of the party rank and file?

Sasikala’s rise from the penum­bra of Tamil Nadu’s pol­i­tics to the shin­ing cen­tre of its gal­axy il­lu­mi­nates the link be­tween parties’ in­ter­nal democ­racy or its deficit and the qual­ity of the polity in gen­eral.

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