April 25, 2001


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Voters, governor will decide Jaya's fate

N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras

With 'disqualified' AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha on the offensive, seeking voter sympathy, and her electoral allies losing no time in swearing by her leadership, the people and the Governor of Tamil Nadu will decide on the political future of the former state chief minister.

If the AIADMK alliance now depends on the voters' decision, any favourable verdict would put the ball before the Governor, Justice Fatima Beevi, to decide on Jayalalitha's eligibility to become chief minister.

"Makkal theerpei mahesan theerpu," Jayalalitha declared, at campaign meetings, even as the disqualification decision was expected, implying that the voters' verdict had the power to wipe out the decision of the returning officers in the four constituencies from where she had filed her papers.

"It is not just in four constituencies, but in all 141 constituencies of the AIADMK that I deem to contest from," she added, after the decisions were announced on Tuesday evening.

"Thus, you have to vote for the AIADMK in all 141 constituencies," she appealed to the voters of Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga districts, where she was campaigning.

If her adversaries thought that she would get into a cocoon, as was the case with her at times of adversity, it was not to be this time. Belying predictions, she went out campaigning, without retiring from the street battle, and also went on the offensive.

"Karunanidhi has conspired to get me disqualified," she declared, without bothering about the aspersions her declaration could cast on the returning officers, and thus the Election Commission.

"He sees me as a hurdle in the way of his mayoral son M K Stalin becoming chief minister," she added, for cause.

Unperturbed, Karunanidhi too has started going on the offensive for the first time in three decades, on the issue of Stalin. "He has every right to become chief minister. After all, he has been in politics for over three decades, and was imprisoned for purely political reasons during the Emergency, and not on corruption charges," he has started stating in the last few years after Jayalalitha's disqualification became public.

f Karunanidhi sees no 'sympathy wave' in favour of Jayalalitha following the disqualification, the AIADMK allies not only see one, but are very desperate for the creation of one in the coming weeks. Short of a leader to be projected for chief ministership, they feel weapon-less on a battle field.

Tamil Maanila Congress founder G K Moopanar has described Jayalalitha's disqualification as 'unfortunate', while the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India-Marxist allies in the state have declared no change in the leadership or the alliance question, between now and the May 10 polls.

PMK founder S Ramadoss has taken a similar line.

The AIADMK alliance is now counting on a possible 'sympathy wave' to deliver the votes for Jayalalitha leadership. Her filing nominations from four constituencies in different regions of the state would help carry her 'conspiracy' message more effectively into the interior villages, they hope.

With no clear political wave showing up, they feel, any small shift in voting pattern, influenced by even a weak wave of sympathy in favour of Jayalalitha, would help.

However, questions remain on the possibility of the Governor inviting Jayalalitha to form a government, if and when the alliance won. Jayalalitha aides count on a 'popular mandate' as cause enough for her being invited to form a government.

Ramadoss went a step further to say that Jayalalitha could become a legislator within the mandated six months after becoming chief minister.

According to this camp, the Governor is duty-bound to invite Jayalalitha to form a government, if elected leader by a majority of MLAs. They cited a Supreme Court judgement in the Assembly dissolution case, when the Janata Party Government of the late prime minister, Morarji Desai, dismissed nine Congress state governments and dissolved their assemblies. A nine-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court upheld the Centre's decision, which, it argued, was based on the people's mandate in the post-Emergency Lok Sabha polls of 1977.

However, others stated that the question involved the 'pleasure of the governor' to invite a person to become chief minister. Just as it could not be a subjective decision of the governor on matters of majority, it could not be so, either on matters of basic principles.

They referred to the observations of Dr B R Ambedkar, chairman of the Drafting Committee, when the constituent assembly discussed the 'dismissal of state governments'.

According to Ambedkar, the President or Governor had to look not only into the majority that a minister enjoyed in the legislature, but also into the 'legality' of such appointments and continuance. If a person is not qualified to contest elections on the basis of a court conviction that had not been suspended, it would also flow that such a person could not hold a more substantive post like chief ministership, which should be based on his becoming a legislature.

To them, the six-month period offered for ministers to become legislators should be seen as an exception. As they further note, any exception could lead to a scheme of constitutional dictatorship, whereby a person could continue to be a chief minister or prime minister for most of five years, without being responsible to the legislature by quitting office at the turn of every six months, to circumvent provisions of the law.

That certainly was not the intent or purpose of the founding fathers, or of the constitutional scheme of things, they argue.

The sources also refer to recent resignations of Buta Singh and then AIADMK leader Sedapatti R Muthiah from the Union Cabinet, after charges were framed against them in criminal cases.

But, says the AIADMK camp, these resignations were not mandatory under law, but only flowed from the Bharatiya Janata Party's leadership's exigency to maintain the 'Mr Clean' image of Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, pointing out, how the latter continued to be looking the other way when his party ministers were known to be involved in the Ayodhya demolition case, without doubt.

All Jayalalitha nominations rejected
Chidambaram welcomes rejection of Jaya's papers
Karunanidhi behind rejection of nominations: Jaya
Decision right, says Jethmalani
Muthiah's nomination rejected
Vajpayee to campaign in TN: PTI

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