Post-Jayalalithaa AIADMK cannot take on the Narendra Modi dispensation like its late charismatic leader did it on several occasions in the past, says R Ramasubramanian.
Tamil Nadu's most charismatic leader, J Jayalalithaa is no more. Her death has created a huge political vacuum in the state and for the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in particular.
But the interesting aspect to be seen is the shape that the politics of the ruling AIADMK is expected to undergo in the coming days.
The moot question is, will the AIADMK gravitate towards the Bharatiya Janata Party as has been reported by a section of seasoned political pundits in the state?
The AIADMK has 136 MLAs in the 234-member state assembly. But more than that, it is its strength in Parliament -- 37 Lok Sabha and 13 Rajya Sabha MPs -- that is an enviable one for any ruling dispensation at the Centre. These 50 MPs are going to be the most sought-after commodity by the Narendra Modi government in the coming days, especially for their voting value in the upcoming presidential and vice-presidential elections scheduled to take place in July 2017.
Besides, these MPs are expected to play a crucial role in the passage of important bills in both Houses of Parliament.
So Modi’s requirements are very clear.
But what about the AIADMK’s requirements from the Centre? How will it manage the state, especially after the departure of its only charismatic leader?
Tamil Nadu is reeling under a debt of over Rs 4 lakh crore and thanks to an ever-growing freebie culture -- more than at any point of time in the state's history -- it desperately needs the Centre's help to tide over the deficit.
The impending GST and the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission to the state government employees are expected to take a huge toll on the states' exchequer.
This year's budget provisions were passed in March itself, so the government is in auto mode. The real challenge comes in for the financial year 2017-18 when the AIADMK government presents its next budget.
Interestingly, few developments in the state's politics and its administration since September 22, when Jayalalithaa was hospitalised, received little attention in the media.
These are Tamil Nadu's decision to join the UDAY Power Scheme, implementing the Food Security Act from November 1 and acceding to the NEET exams. These are schemes which were ferociously opposed by Jayalalithaa till she got admitted to the hospital.
Another interesting aspect behind these developments is the role played by a hitherto low-profile, state minister for school education, Ma Foi Pandiyarajan or Ma Foi as he has been affectionately called in political circles in Tamil Nadu. He joined the AIADMK jettisoning Vijayakanth's Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam two years ago. Before joining the DMDK, he was with the BJP.
Interestingly, though Ma Foi is a school education minister, he attended a couple of meetings called by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to discuss GST.
Political circles say Ma Foi is the man to look out for in the coming months.
"Yes. Ma Foi’s role is to be watched. When he was in the DMDK he was considered an AIADMK man. Now he is considered a BJP man in the AIADMK. With his sharp acumen and grasping power on financial and economical issues, Ma Foi has already started playing a crucial role in shaping the Tamil Nadu government's attitude towards the important schemes of the Modi government. The BJP leadership is enjoying this because one of the important states in the country has started falling in line with Modi's pet projects," says a senior DMK leader from southern Tamil Nadu who has known Ma Foi personally for many years.
Politically speaking, the post-Jayalalithaa AIADMK cannot take on the Modi dispensation like their late charismatic leader did it on several occasions in the past. There are a few strong reasons for this.
- To run a state government well, you need the support of the Centre.
- With over 90 percent of its MPs just novices in politics, it is tough to keep the flock from being poached especially when "political wolves" are waiting in the wings both in the state and at the Centre.
- The state government still has four-and-a-half years to rule and the BJP government has got two-and-a-half years to rule the country. So the gains are more if a conciliatory attitude is adopted by the regional party.
- The impending Supreme Court judgment in the disproportionate assets case. The SC had reserved its orders in June this year. With Jayalalithaa gone, there are still three more accused in this case -- Sasikala, her relatives Ilavarasi and Jayalalithaa's jettisoned foster son V N Sudhagaran. In case of an adverse judgment, the fallout will be much more for the AIADMK, at a time when a powerful government is there at the Centre, so it is anyone's knowledge what attitude the post-Jayalalithaa AIADMK will adopt.
As for as the BJP, Jayalalithaa’s exit was indeed a political blessing.
The saffron party which commands just 2 percent of votes in the state has a platform of sorts to launch its political onslaught and thus expand its vote base to the extent possible.
Whether it succeeds or not is a different question, but there is going to be a full-fledged political assault to capture the maximum vote base in the state in the coming months and years.
The BJP has already been working as per well-devised plans and strategies, especially in areas like Coimbatore, Tiruppur and Kanyakumari. It is against this background that one has to understand the state RSS unit’s decision to celebrate the late MGR’s centenary which falls on January 2017.
The saffron outfits are clearly attempting to capture the late leader's legacy.
It may be an irony of sorts that the television coverage of Rajaji Hall in Chennai on Tuesday where Jayalaithaa’s coffin was kept for public to pay their respects showed two interesting visuals.
The morning visuals showed the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting M Venkaiah Naidu sitting on a chair on the left bottom-edge of Jayalalithaa's coffin, silently for hours together. This may be a symbolic gesture of sorts.
The second visual, in the afternoon, was much more revealing. When Modi came to pay his respects, he put his right hand on Sasikala's head and blessed her. Simultaneously, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam hugged Modi and wept...
Could this be a political hug? Did these visuals show the fate awaiting Tamil Nadu?
Photograph: Press Information Bureau