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|August 19, 1999||
Thamaraikkani provides firecrackers in Sivakasi
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
Ask any aide of R Thamaraikkani, till recently leader of the four-member AIADMK legislature party group in Tamil Nadu, how he views his boss' decision to contest the forthcoming election from the prestigious Sivakasi constituency in southern Tamil Nadu. The answer most likely will be: it's a political suicide.
Thamaraikkani, who was expelled from the party on Wednesday evening, perhaps realises that he can never win from Sivakasi, where officials AIADMK candidate Justice V Ramaswamy (who escaped impeachment by a whisker) is locked in tough battle with MDMK chief Vaiko. While Vaiko is a heavy-weight, Jayalalitha is likely to campaign extensively for Ramasawamy.
But then, Thamaraikkani is known for taking strange decisions. And yes, he needs to get back at Jayalalitha at any cost.
But why was Thamaraikkani expelled from AIADMK? There are two theories: one says that he had a fight with Jayalalitha over Ramaswamy's candidature from Sivakasi, while the other says that he was punished for having failed to organise a big crowd for Jayalalitha's rally in Sivakasi on Monday.
Trouble for Thamaraikkani started when Jayalalitha landed at Sivakasi on Monday evening for her long and arduous election campaign. She had addressed a public meeting in Sivakasi only a couple of days earlier, but wanted another to drive home her animosity towards Vaiko, whom she foresees as yet another threat to her political supremacy in the state.
Quite sure that Jayalalitha would arrive late for the meeting as she usually does, Thamaraikkani took it easy. He even ignored the alert sounded by AIADMK Deputy General Secretary K A Sengottiyan who reached the venue just minutes before 'madam' arrived.
When Jaya arrived she found only a small crowd waiting for her.
"We tried doing whatever possible in the short notice available," says an aide of Thamaraikkani, "We were prepared only for a post-sunset meeting, maybe around 8 pm."
With her plans of embarrassing Vaiko in his fortress proving futile, a raging Jayalalitha reportedly tongue-lashed Thamaraikkani at her hotel room in neighbouring Virudunagar. "She said that Thamaraikkani was assuming too much power for himself in the local AIADMK politics, and threatened to teach him a lesson," a Thamaraikkani aide said. "She even said that Thamaraikkani was running the district party, as its secretary, only with himself and his son in focus," he added.
Thamaraikkani was also accused of possibly stashing away the money given to him by Ramaswamy to organise his election campaign.
"Anyone in his place would have committed suicide," says the aide, ''But Thamaraikkani is made of different stuff. He decided not to sulk, but to hit back. And hit back he did, by filing his nomination from Sivakasi as an AIADMK candidate!
Promptly, Jayalalitha sacked him.
This is, however, not the first time that Thamaraikkani has fallen out with Jayalalitha. A find of AIADMK founder, late M G Ramachandran, Thamaraikkani was in the anti-Jayalalitha camp after MGR's death, and was also the only one of the Janaki Ramachandran faction's nominees to win the 1989 assembly elections.
Yet, when both the factions merged, and it was time for the 1991 elections, Jayalalitha denied him a ticket. Not to be cowed down, Thamaraikkani contested as an independent -- of course, he had the rival DMK's sympathy -- and won.
It was only then that Jayalalitha admitted him into the party. With the party's poor showing in the 1996 polls (it just had four MLAs in a House of 234) and the ultimate exit of Thirunavukkarasu, that Thamaraikkani became the AIADMK group leader in the assembly.
For all the controversies that surround Thamaraikkani's legislative life, he has been winning successfully from his native Srivilliputtur. Interestingly, his loyal constituents seem to include both the traditional Brahmins, as also the Dalits, not to leave out his own Nadar community.
Says K Srinivasa Iyengar, an orthodox Brahmin from the equally orthodox temple-town, where the Vaishnavite poet-saint Nammalvar had resided, "You can say whatever, but he is our man in need. Whether it's a police case, or a hospital emergency, or a school admission, you can count on him to deliver, without anything in return - and instantaneously."
Only that in doing so, he seems to be crossing the thin dividing line between a law-maker and law-breaker, once too often.
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