- BY K.V. VENUGOPAL 04-01-2017
In Chennai wall posters are hailing the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa with a suggestive image of Sashikala as her heir. It is being learnt that Sashikala has the support of all the 137 MLAs of the AIADMK led by the Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam. Even the detractors of Chinnamma(Sashikala) are paying their respects to her at ‘Veda Nilayam’, the official residence at Poes Gardens in the city. Everyone, who is somebody in theAIADMK is begging her to take up the important assignments and thus save Tamil Nadu, says a long-time loyalist of the late Chief Minister MGR Tamil Nadu.
The DMK Treasurer M.K. Stalin alleged that police personnel are forced to function as security guards at the residence of Sashikala, the one-time residence Jayalalithaa in the city. However, she ordered the withdrawal of the policemen, the moment she realised the validity in the objection raised by Mr Stalin. Sasikala has also indicated with her recent action that she is in possession of a will or document that renders her stay at the residence of Jayalalithaa.
Sources in the AIADMK opposed to Sashikala, view that she might attempt to control the state as an unconstitutional power. In that respect, she will be following in the footsteps of Sonia Gandhi by wielding power in the party through remote control. She can be rest assured that Mr Pannerselvam will be at her beck and call. However, Sashikala and her husband Natarajan are wary of attempts made by the DMK to snatch some MLAs from the AIADMK, as it will facilitate the process for them to form a government of their own. A few prominent AIADMK members opine that as many as 42 MLAs are ready to switch over to the DMK, even though the latter needs only 18 MlAs to claim one-third of the majority.
A prominent AIADMK leader, and a close confidant of Sashikala, who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity, said, most of the ministers and MLAs are extending their support to Sashikala, with an assumption that she is going to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. If she happens to remain on the sideline, it will not be difficult for the DMK to stage a coup, as it will be easy to upstage the team led by Mr Panneerselvam. The DMK president M. Karunanidhi is biding his time before taking any drastic decision, sources close to the party headquarters at Anna Arivalayam in the city said, adding, the party activists are aware that Sashikala and her men will capitalise on the sympathy factor to ride rougshold over her deadly foes.
The BJP, too, is waiting in the wings, as the party would not wish to lose the opportunity to make an inroad into the bastion of the DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. The voters in the State are polarised between the two major Dravidian parties for about four decades. The BJP has decided to make use of this opporrtunity to provide a third, if not viable, alternative to many disgruntled voters, who have had no other option, but to opt for either the DMK or the AIADMK so far. Its leaders are also reminding the people that being a national party, only the BJP is in a position to redress their ventilated grievances in the long run. However, the stumbling block for the saffron party in Tamil Nadu, is that they do not have anyone in the state or cadre strength worth the name.
The present political scenario might suit the Congress, too, even though the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee(TNCC) president Thirunavukkarasar and the former TNCC chief E.V.K.S. Elangovan are at constant loggerheads. For instance, Mr Thirunavukkarasar queried with a tinge of sarcasm, , “if a While Paper is issued, can Jayalalithaa be resurrected,” during a press meet at party headquarters in Chennai recently. This made Mr Elangovan furious and retorted that Mr Tirunavukarasar wanted to save someone by uttering such an uncalled-for- remark.. Interestingly, Mr Thirunavarukarsar was with the AIADMK earlier, and a trusted lieutenant of Jayalalithaa.
The free-for-all continued for some more time, as a point-of no-return reached when both Tirunnavukarasar and Elangoan, accused each other as mentally deranged. For example, the TNCC President said, some insane people are unnecessarily trying to put a knot on Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and Jayalalithaa’s death after he expressed his views on the demand for a White Paper. Mr Elangovan retaliated with, if Mr Tirunavukarsar opines that, since he was closely associated with Jayalalithaa, White Paper is unnecessary, would he extend his support to demonetisation, as he had earlier served in the BJP, too? The veteran Congress leader also asserted that the TNCC chief needs mental cure, as otherwise, on what basis, Mr Tirunavukarasasr is claiming that he would have become the Chief Minister, had he stayed back in AIADMK.
Even under the normal circumstances, the interneccine warfare in the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress was an open secret, and the recent controvery, has only compounded the problem within the party. If the present situation unites the Congress and the Tamil Maanila Congress led by G.K. Vasan, itself would prove to be a blessing-in-disguise for both the parties. What would be the strategy of Mr Karunanidhi, under the trying circumstances, remains to be seen. The nonagenarian leader can keep everyone in the party guessing about the anointment of Mr Stalin as his heir and/or future working President and thus retain control of the party on the one hand and avoid antagonising his other children Alagiri and Kanimozhi. However, age might be telling on the DMK president, as he was hospitalised twice or three recently due to ill health.
The BJP shot itself in the mouth by allegedly getting the income tax department to raid former State Chief Secretary Ram Mohan Rao. The entire opposition in Tamil Nadu seems to be supporting the man indulged in rampant corruption. Mr Rao himself told the press that he fears for his life at the hands of agent provocateurs from the centre. Besides, other opposition parties alleged a constitutional crisis when the office and residential premises of Mr Rao were raided.
Informed sources averred that to terrify Mr Panneerselvam, Ms Sasikala could have passed on the details of Rao’s secret treasure and the industrialist Sekar Reddy to the Income Tax authorities. After the raid on Mr Reddy, the Chief Minister fell in line and beseeched Sashikala to perform the important functions. This indicates tht it was a clever ploy on the part of Natarajan, the schemer and husband of Sashikala, whom Jayalalithaa arrested on some charges during her tenure from 2001 to 2006. Importantly, Mr Rao has not denied the seizure of huge money or has alleged that the money was planted in a statement to the media.
It may be recalled that Sashikala was introduced to Jayalalithaa by former IAS Officer, Chandralekha, one of the mainstays in the Janata Party and its symbol retained by the maverick BJP leader Subamanian Swamy for a long time. Besides, Dr Swamy is a close friend of Dr Pratap Reddy of Apollo Hospital, where Jayalalithaa spent her last 75 days. Moreover, Dr Reddy’s daughter has links with Mr Karunanidhi’s grandnephews – the Maran siblings – Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi, facing prosecution in the Aircel-Maxis case and also the illegal telephone exchange. Incidentally, Apollo offices were raided by the CBI when the UPA was in power. Dr Swamy took Jayalalithaa to court in the disproportionate assets case in 1996, which was later ‘adopted’ by the DMK. The former AIADMK general secretary is no more, but Sasikala is yet to be exonerated in that. The DMK has its own cup of woe held by Mr Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi in the matter concerning 2G Spectrum auctions. The former UPA government initiated action, that sent A Raja, the ex- Union Telecommunications minister and Ms Kanimozhi to prison. But the same Congress voted to send Mr Karunanidhi’s beloved daughter to the Rajya Sabha! In politics, it is not a crime to wash your dirtylinen in public. After all, the public memory is proverbially short.!