A show of op­por­tunism and greed to power as the norm of pol­i­tics

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - OPINION - By M.S.M.AYUB

The as­tound­ing ra­pid­ity in the turn of events tak­ing place in the south­ern In­dian State of Tamil Nadu af­ter the death of the State’s Chief Min­is­ter Jay­alalithaa Je­yaram does not al­low any­body to sur­mise as to what is go­ing to hap­pen next.

How­ever, now that V.K. Sasikala, the con­fi­dante of Jay­alalithaa had been sen­tenced to four years in jail in the ver­dict of a dis­pro­por­tion­ate as­sets case, the sit­u­a­tion is likely to calm down soon.

Re­cent events took place in the State had brought us so many in­ter­est­ing par­al­lels be­tween the op­por­tunis­tic and high­handed pol­i­tics in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu.

And the tol­er­ance and the adap­ta­tion of peo­ple of the two States to the vul­gar­ity in po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments are also amaz­ing.

Be­fore be­ing con­victed by the Supreme Court Sasikala Natara­jan in­car­cer­ated al­most all ex­cept for about five Mem­bers of Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly of Jay­alalithaa’s po­lit­i­cal party, the All India Anna Dravida Mun­netra Kazha­ham (AIADMK) in a lux­ury re­sort in Koo­vathoor, near Chen­nai, ap­par­ently till the As­sem­bly vote on her elec­tion as the new Chief Min­is­ter of the State is held.

This might evoke in the minds of many in the po­lit­i­cally con­scious older gen­er­a­tion in Sri Lanka, a strangely sim­i­lar in­car­cer­a­tion of Par­lia­ment mem­bers in a lux­ury ho­tel by a for­mer Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent.

That hap­pened in 1987 soon af­ter the Indo-lanka Peace Ac­cord signed be­tween Pres­i­dent J.R. Jayewar­dene of Sri Lanka and Prime Min­is­ter Ra­jiv Gandhi of India as a so­lu­tion to the Sri Lanka’s eth­nic prob­lem.

As a rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Ac­cord by the Par­lia­ment, the Sri Lankan Gov­ern­ment had to en­act the 13th Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Pro­vin­cial Coun­cils Act pro­vid­ing for the in­tro­duc­tion of Pro­vin­cial Coun­cils in the coun­try.

The op­po­si­tion in the south­ern parts of Sri Lanka to the Ac­cord and the two pieces of legislations sched­uled to be adopted was such that even Pres­i­dent Jayewar­dene, who wielded a five sixths of Par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity doubted whether he would be suc­cess­ful in get­ting them passed in the House.

He might have been alarmed as his Prime Min­is­ter Ranas­inghe Pre­madasa had also been ex­press­ing views against the Ac­cord.

Hence, he took a bizarre de­ci­sion to pre­vent the MPS of his party, the United Na­tional Party (UNP) from be­ing in­flu­enced by the out­siders as well as the un­furl­ing events. He while hav­ing un­dated res­ig­na­tion let­ters from the MPS of his party with him, housed all of them in a lux­ury ho­tel in Colombo un­til they were taken to the Par­lia­ment in busses next day for the pas­sage of the said Con­sti­tu­tional Amend­ment.

Sasikala did the same thing. Af­ter the death of Jay­alalithaa the Act­ing Chief Min­is­ter O. Pan­neerchel­vam con­tin­ued in the post.

But she craftily per­suaded him first to pro­pose her for the pow­er­ful Gen­eral Sec­re­tary post of the party, the AIADMK, and then to re­sign as the Chief Min­is­ter.

De­spite her be­ing not a mem­ber of the Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly (MLA) she was ap­pointed as the leader of the as­sem­bly group of the party to be ap­pointed as the Chief Min­is­ter, us­ing cer­tain pro­vi­sions of the In­dian Con­sti­tu­tion.

Even be­fore be­ing ap­pointed for the post of Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the AIADMK only be­cause her close friend­ship with Jay­alalithaa, Sasikala was so pow­er­ful within the party that even Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena had sent his con­do­lences over Jay­alalithaa’s death to her, who did not hold any post in the party or in the Tamil Nadu Gov­ern­ment then, ac­cord­ing to In­dian me­dia.

The spe­cial emis­saries of Pres­i­dent Sirisena, for­mer Min­is­ter Aru­mu­gan Thon­daman and Uva pro­vin­cial Min­is­ter Senthil Thon­daman met her in­stead of meet­ing Chief Min­is­ter Pan­neerchel­vam to con­vey the mes­sage.

Also Pres­i­dent Sirisena had obliged to a re­quest by Sasikala, an or­di­nary cit­i­zen then to in­crease the num­ber of Tamil Nadu devo­tees for the open­ing of a new church build­ing in Kachchathivu from 20 to 100, the In­dian me­dia said.

How­ever, Pan­nerchel­vam woke up from his deep moral slum­ber two days af­ter his res­ig­na­tion to see that he was go­ing to be a po­lit­i­cal des­ti­tute and dropped a bomb­shell at the Jay­alalithaa “samadi” at the Ma­rina Beach, by stat­ing that he was forced to re­sign by Sasikala and her men and that he would fight back.

Alarmed by the new de­vel­op­ment Sasikala took all AIADMK MLAS to the Golden Bay Re­sort in Koo­vathoor to be in­car­cer­ated and some Tamil Nadu me­dia said that they had been pre­vented from us­ing any kind of tele­phones, tele­vi­sions, news­pa­pers. The re­ports also said that habeas

cor­pus pe­ti­tions had been filed on be­half of five in­car­cer­ated MLS, by their rel­a­tives.

Then Sasikala re­quested the State’s Gover­nor Vi­dayasagar Rao to swear in her as the Chief Min­is­ter, but the Gover­nor was non­com­mit­tal. In fact, he had to oblige as she had then been ap­pointed as the leader of the rul­ing party of the State As­sem­bly, de­spite the modus operandi she used to take con­trol of the party and its MLAS.

The Catch-22 sit­u­a­tion faced by the Gover­nor, who had been caught be­tween the law and con­science or rel­a­tive loy­alty re­minds us a sim­i­lar dilemma en­coun­tered by a Sri Lankan Pro­vin­cial Gover­nor in 1994.

To­wards the tail end of the 17 year long UNP rule, The Sri Lanka Free­dom Party (SLFP) led Peo­ple’s Al­liance (PA) won the South­ern Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil in 1994 by one seat and Amarasiri Do­dan­goda of the PA claimed the Chief Min­is­ter post. Caught be­tween the moral­ity and his loy­alty to his party, the UNP Gover­nor M.A. Ba­keer Marker van­ished from the Prov­ince for few days cre­at­ing a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion.

Later Do­dan­goda was sworn in as the CM.

Sasikala did not use thugs or any other un­law­ful meth­ods to get the MLAS be­come sub­servient, but they just obeyed her like slaves do even when she or­dered them to be in­car­cer­ated in a ho­tel.

They did so when they strongly sensed that she was go­ing to be the next Chief Min­is­ter, as Pan­neerchel­vam was re­peat­edly giv­ing in to her.

The par­al­lel to this in Sri Lanka was seen soon af­ter the last Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was held when the SLFP MPS who called Maithri­pala Sirisena an agent of the West and the LTTE marched into his fold to be­come Min­is­ters af­ter he was voted into Pres­i­dency.

In fact, Pa­neerchel­vam has acted like a cow­ard. He did not need to give in to Sasikala as he did when she was with Jay­alalithaa.

But it seems that he had no guts to break the tra­di­tion of obey­ing Jay­alalithaa’s most trusted friend, un­til he found that he was go­ing to be to­tally side­lined. It was his sub­mis­sive mind­set that prompted Jay­alalithaa to as­sign him to step up for her thrice be­fore when she was dis­qual­i­fied due to le­gal grounds and when she was ad­mit­ted to the hospi­tal in last Septem­ber. In Sri Lanka too cer­tain Pres­i­dents ap­pointed rel­a­tively sub­mis­sive per­son­al­i­ties as their Prime Min­is­ters as they felt it would be safe.

Re­mind­ing SLMC’S founder leader MHM Ashraff’s widow, Fe­rial fight­ing for the SLMC lead­er­ship, Sasikala who claimed the Chief Min­is­ter post had never been a party ac­tivist, de­spite be­ing Jay­alalithaa’s shadow.

Tamil Nadu me­dia say that she had never spo­ken on a pub­lic plat­form. Fe­rial too had never been a mem­ber of the SLMC un­til Ashraff’s death in 2000, in spite of her be­ing his wife. Both wanted to be­come the rulers just on the grounds that they were so close to de­ceased lead­ers.

An­other par­al­lel can be drawn be­tween the con­tro­ver­sial politi­cian Subra­ma­nian Swami and the small par­ties in the Joint Op­po­si­tion in Sri Lanka.

Both want to split the rul­ing party in their re­spec­tive States for the sur­vival of their own par­ties.

In all th­ese in­stances what we see is that op­por­tunism and greed to power have been the norm of pol­i­tics.

What is dis­heart­en­ing is the peo­ple’s tol­er­ance and at­tempts to adapt to the sit­u­a­tion.

Be­fore be­ing con­victed by the Supreme Court Sasikala Natara­jan in­car­cer­ated al­most all ex­cept for about five Mem­bers of Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly of Jay­alalithaa’s po­lit­i­cal party, the All India Anna Dravida Mun­netra Kazha­ham (AIADMK) in a lux­ury re­sort in Koo­vathoor, near Chen­nai, ap­par­ently till the As­sem­bly vote on her elec­tion as the new Chief Min­is­ter of the State is held.

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