I am a Tamilian who has lived all my life in Bombay. But I have family that lives back in Tamil Nadu. In no way, have I ever been disconnected from the things happening there and I am definitely not someone who would miss news from Tamil Nadu’s political business. Traditionally, Tamil Nadu has more or less functioned as a bi-party state. You have had the seat of power alternating between either the DMK or the AIADMK, both off-springs of the Dravidian movement. Both these parties have also given the state supremely charismatic, popular and strong leaders. J. Jayalalitha was no different. She steadily rose through ranks in the AIADMK and went on to become the first Brahmin woman to lead a state with a very dominant Dravidian character.
Her demise certainly threw the state of affairs off guard and also raised multiple speculations about not only who would lead the party but also the state, considering Amma as she was fondly called never categorically clarified or mentioned her second-in-line. Tamil Nadu is one of the most developed states in the country and has also been a pioneer in welfare politics, populism and even human development indicators. It is not my bias that is talking here but actual figures. For some reason, my intuition held me back on writing this piece which ideally should have dealt with Sasikala and Jayalalitha, alone. That is why I decided to wait and see what happens next. Too much of my surprise, the next evening you had the current Tamil Nadu CM O. Panneerselvam or OPS rebelling against the party leadership. That’s where the date with chaos begins.
During the entire course of time when Amma was hospitalised, it was OPS who was asked to take charge as the CM of the state. This was not the first time he was asked to take charge during a crisis. After Amma’s passing away one fact that remained constant was that the party needed a leader who could hold all the members together despite differences with reference to communities and castes. This was also the time when news of the possibility of V.K.Sasikala, a close aide of Jayalalitha taking over as the head of the party and potentially even the state began picking momentum. While onlookers expected either OPS or M. Thambidurai, another very senior leader from the party to be considered for the top position, Sasikala’s name making rounds was less of a shock more of an unfortunate happening. Apart from the fact that she was somebody who spent a considerable amount of her life with the late leader, she in no way was either trained nor did she naturally inherit or possess any political acumen or skills of an administrator to lead the state.
The primary consequence of OPS’ rebellion was the party breaking into 2 factions; one led by Sasikala and the other by OPS himself. The drama continues to unfold till today. While ministers are fleeing the Sasikala camp and walking in support of OPS, the fear of losing power seems to have begun making Sasikala slightly paranoid. I would refrain from getting into details of the drama and mud-slinging that has taken place between the two broken camps. The integrity and independence of the Governor came into questioning. The general public wants OPS to take over as the CM and not Sasikala. With criminal charges against her already, she is being observed as someone who is trying to imitate Jayalalitha in every bit possible and is eventually exuding a fear of Jaya’s era being put to an end by her. There are reports of MLA’s being under pressure, captivity so that she gets the numbers in the floor test. Additionally, there also seems to be this growing influence and involvement of her family in state administration.
As defections continue to rise from the Sasikala camp to the OPS camp till now, this lack of clarity is a cause of great concern. I have been glued to the television non-stop for the last one week (which also is the reason why I took forever to write this piece) and all I can say is that the political gamble in Tamil Nadu has taken a lot of tolls already. Politicians will be politicians irrespective of which party, clan, sect they come from. Ultimately who is it costing the most? You and me. Only and only time can tell us what is in store and my choice and support are clear. Do you want to know? We’ll discuss once things settle.