Faces of change


When J Jay­alalithaa was alive, hers was the only im­age that dom­i­nated hoard­ings and ban­ners put up by par­ty­men at any event the AIADMK supremo at­tended, how­ever few and far be­tween they may have been.

Those cel­e­brat­ing her pres­ence at the event would rel­e­gate them­selves to a cor­ner of the hoard­ing or ban­ner. Their ob­jec­tive: to reaf­firm their loy­alty to ‘Amma’ or to get back into her good books if they had fallen out of favour.

What also mat­tered was where the hoard­ing had come up. The most pre­ferred point was the Mu­sic Acad­emy junc­tion, which fell on Jay­alalithaa’s route if she were to travel from her Poes Gar­den res­i­dence to the Sec­re­tar­iat.

Fol­low­ing Amma’s death, Sasikala, for a brief while, dom­i­nated the city’s hoard­ings-scape. ‘Chin­namma’ was Amma’s trusted com­pan­ion, and hence ‘le­git­i­mate suc­ces­sor’. Fol­low­ing her con­vic­tion in a cor­rup­tion case and sub­se­quent im­pris­on­ment in a Ben­galuru jail, Sasikala dropped out of sight. Her nephew, TTV Dhi­nakaran, who was anointed party deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary just be­fore Sasikala drove to Ben­galuru to sur­ren­der be­fore prison of­fi­cials, gained promi­nence in the hoard­ings, also be­cause he was the AIADMK’s can­di­date from the RK Na­gar seat, which fell va­cant af­ter Jay­alalithaa’s death in De­cem­ber 2016.

The AIADMK then split into two fac­tions, one headed by Dhi­nakaran and the other by O Pan­neer­sel­vam, who re­belled against Sasikala and claimed that he had been forced to step down as Chief Min­is­ter.

Since then, the AIADMK has not been the party it was: an out­fit con­trolled by a supreme leader with an iron hand. It split into three fac­tions – one led by Chief Min­is­ter Edap­padi K Palaniswami, an­other by Pan­neer­sel­vam, and yet an­other by Dhi­nakaran. The fac­tions led by Palaniswami and Pan­neer­sel­vam have now come to­gether. Pan­neer­sel­vam is now Deputy CM and co­or­di­na­tor of the party, and Palaniswami a joint co­or­di­na­tor.

Pan­neer­sel­vam, who main­tained a low pro­file even when he stood in as chief min­is­ter for Jay­alalithaa, and for a brief pe­riod af­ter her death, was prom­i­nent on posters when it was an­nounced that he would be Palaniswami’s deputy.

Now, too, the hoard­ing that catches ev­ery­one’s eye at the Mu­sic Acad­emy sig­nal, has Jay­alalithaa cast promi­nently, along with her “two eyes”: Palaniswami and Pan­neer­sel­vam. In a party where posters and hoard­ings mat­ter, there is no stronger mes­sage that can be con­veyed to the party faith­ful than de­scrib­ing the CM and his deputy as the eyes of the de­parted party supremo. As the fight­ing with the Dhi­nakaran fac­tion in­ten­si­fies, the poster war also prom­ises to ratchet up.

When Jay­alalithaa was alive, you could see traf­fic po­lice­men in full strength line up only when she left her res­i­dence. Each one would take up po­si­tions at in­ter­vals of 10 feet. Then they went miss­ing. But over the last few days, the cops are back on the road, es­pe­cially on the one lead­ing to the Sec­re­tar­iat. Is there a mes­sage be­ing con­veyed? One doesn’t know. But con­ver­sa­tions with those in the govern­ment and out­side al­most al­ways boil down to “what will hap­pen”, re­fer­ring to whether the govern­ment will last and, if so, how much longer.

Things con­tinue to be in limbo as the two AIADMK fac­tions en­gage in sabre-rat­tling and a war of at­tri­tion. The DMK has pe­ti­tioned Gov­er­nor Ch Vidyasagar Rao for the As­sem­bly to be con­vened and the Palaniswami govern­ment to seek a fresh vote of con­fi­dence. Tamil Nadu still does not have a full-time Gov­er­nor. Ch Vidyasagar Rao, who is Ma­ha­rash­tra Gov­er­nor, has been hold­ing ad­di­tional charge of the State for al­most a year now.

A ban­ner put up by AIADMK work­ers to wel­come Tamil Nadu Chief Min­is­ter Edap­padi K Palaniswami and Deputy CM O Pan­neer­sel­vam to the party head­quar­ters, in Chen­nai

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