Un­cer­tainty looms large over Amma’s party

Palaniswami and Pan­neer­sel­vam’s mar­riage of con­ve­nience may not last long, but their im­me­di­ate plan of ac­tion was to get rid of the ‘Man­nar­gudi clan’, a eu­phemism for Sasikala and her brood.

The Sunday Guardian - - Covert - SAN­TOSH KU­MAR NEW DELHI

The late Chief Min­is­ter of Tamil Nadu, J. Jay­alalithaa’s first death an­niver­sary is barely three months away, but her All In­dia Anna Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam party is yet to find a leader to take the po­lit­i­cal space left va­cant by her un­timely death. While pre­tenders to her legacy fight for the throne, the party founded by her men­tor, “Makkal Thi­lakam” MGR and nur­tured by Amma is slowly dy­ing a nat­u­ral death. Le­gions of her fol­low­ers seem to be in­dif­fer­ent to the hap­pen­ings in the party, the lat­est episode of which is the re­moval of Amma’s con­sort of decades, V.K. Sasikala, in prison right now, and her nephew T.T.V. Di­nakaran, ar­guably the strong­est con­tender among the pre­tenders, from party posts by the present rul­ing clique. The so called “usurpers of power”, Chief Min­is­ter Edap­padi Palaniswami and his deputy of con­ve­nience, O. Pan­neer­sel­vam have, at a gen­eral coun­cil meet­ing of the party, unan­i­mously de­cided to re­move Sasikala from the post of in­terim gen­eral sec­re­tary. It was on 29 De­cem­ber 2016 that Sasikala was ap­pointed unan­i­mously as the gen­eral sec­re­tary of the party by the gen­eral coun­cil, at­tended by both Pan­neer­sel­vam and Palaniswami. Di­nakaran, who was made deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary by Sasikala be­fore mov­ing into a Ban­ga­lore prison, too has been stripped of the post. In­ter­est­ingly, scoff­ing at all spec­u­la­tion, the gen­eral coun­cil was silent on the sta­tus of Sasikala and Di­nakaran’s pri­mary mem­ber­ship of the party. It was de­cided that no one else would hold the post and Jay­alalithaa will re­main party gen­eral sec­re­tary for eter­nity. An 11- meme­ber steer­ing com­mit­tee with Pan­neer­sel­vam as its head and Palaniswami as deputy would be look­ing af­ter the af­fairs of the party in fu­ture.

Even as ques­tions are be­ing raised on the com­po­si­tion of the gen­eral coun­cil and the ve­rac­ity of its de­ci­sions, it is clear that the two— Palaniswami and Pan­neer­sel­vam—have de­cided to stick to­gether to share power. The mar­riage of con­ve­nience may not last long, but their im­me­di­ate plan of ac­tion was to get rid of the “Man­nar­gudi clan”, a eu­phemism for Sasikala and her brood. The best way to do this was by in­vok­ing the name of Jay­alalithaa. Un­less they bring some le­git­i­macy to their lead­er­ship of the party, it will not be pos­si­ble for them to stake claim to the party’s famed two-leaves sym­bol, which is frozen for the time be­ing by the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. EC has kept the sym­bol on hold af­ter Pan­neer­sl­e­vam and Palaniswami de­cided to con­test the RK Na­gar by-elec­tion sep­a­rately. That the by-poll to Amma’s con­stituency stands can­celled, is an­other story. The duo would like to test the wa­ters in RK Na­gar first, rather than face fresh state elec­tions as is de­manded by op­po­si­tion DMK and its leader M.K. Stalin. But be­fore this, the Palaniswami govern­ment will have to prove its ma­jor­ity, con­tested ve­he­mently by both Stalin and Di­nakaran, on the floor of the House. Go­ing by the num­ber of MLs present at the gen­eral coun­cil meet­ing, Palaniswami is short of the mag­i­cal 117-fig­ure needed to sur­vive the day. Now the High Court has given time till 20 Septem­ber. In these five days, Palaniswami will have to se­cure per­mis­sion from the Gov­er­nor to dis­qual­ify 19 MLAs, who are said to be with Di­nakaran. The court has asked the ad­vo­cate gen­eral for in­struc­tions from the Speaker on the is­sue.

As things stand, there is no clar­ity on many as­pects re­gard­ing AIADMK, de­spite all the claims by the Palaniswami-Pan­neer­sel­vam com­bine. In the event of their fail­ure in se­cur­ing the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of the rebel leg­is­la­tors, the cur­rent lead­er­ship is pin­ning hopes that Di­nakaran would not join hands with DMK to pull down a govern­ment of Jay­alalithaa. Their cal­cu­la­tion is that if he does so, the peo­ple will not for­give him for be­tray­ing or back­stab­bing their Amma even in death. This may not hap­pen as they think. Peo­ple are quite dis­il­lu­sioned about the state of af­fairs in the party. They are more con­cerned with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of more so­cial wel­fare schemes an­nounced by Amma soon af­ter her vic­tory. For the past nine months, there has been no gov­er­nance at all in the state. Even the op­po­si­tion DMK has been bogged down with the go­ings on in AIADMK, so much so that it has not launched any ag­i­ta­tion de­mand­ing the ouster of the Palaniswami govern­ment. This is de­spite ru­mours that the BJP, in its bid to get a foothold in the state, is pulling the strings in that party. Though once in a while Stalin raises the BJP an­gle, the DMK sur­pris­ingly has not taken to the streets. To his credit, Stalin has stuck to his word not to in­dulge in horse trad­ing to come to power. But he may not be averse to join hands with Di­nakaran, who has vowed to send Palaniswami home, to vote out the govern­ment, but that is not go­ing to solve the problem. Even with Di­nakaran’s sup­port DMK will not be in a po­si­tion to form an al­ter­nate govern­ment. That means the peo­ple of Tamil Nadu will have no op­tion but to live with the present bunch of rulers, whether they rule or not. The more this govern­ment clings on to power, Palaniswami and com­pany will in fact be dig­ging the grave of AIADMK. It could at best be put to rest be­side Amma on the Marina.


The me­mo­rial of for­mer Tamil Nadu Chief MIin­is­ter J. Jay­alalithaa at Marina Beach in Chen­nai on 18 Au­gust.

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