Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK may choose to capitalise on the confusion within opposition ranks and hope to ride to power on Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s popularity, writes N Sathiya Moorthy.
With the delayed legislative session for clearing departmental budgetary allocations finally commencing, and the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam too setting up a 64,000-strong cadre group to meet individual voters and hear them out, speculation is rife that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa might advance the state assembly elections, otherwise due in May next year.
Since returning to power in 2011, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has made it a practice to announce concessions of every kind through what has come to be known as the ‘110 statements’, the figure relating to the relevant provision in the assembly’s rules of procedure. Both party cadres and political opponents expect more such announcements this session, too, as they immediately capture the attention and imagination of the people – or, so it seems.
Jaya was cheered when she returned to the assembly in the first session after her winning the RK Nagar by-election by a huge margin. Her response to the Supreme Court notice in the ‘assets case’ against her has also been as much political as it is legal. Countering legal demands for a stay on her ‘assets case’ acquittal by the Karnataka high court judge, and also for quashing Justice C R Kumaraswamy’s order, Jaya has referred extensively to her huge popular support as is visible from the voting figures at R K Nagar and calling the appeal pleas as ‘political vendetta’.
The Supreme Court is set to hear the case in the coming weeks and months, and any confirmation of the HC-ordered acquittal is expected to help the AIADMK even more ahead of the assembly polls, whenever they are held. The party cadres are confident that their ‘Amma’ would come out scratch free from the ‘agni-paritchai’ (‘test by the fire’).
Simultaneously, witness the recent raids on former communication minister A Raja, identified with the ‘2-G scam cases’ now pending before the Supreme Court downward in distant Delhi. Raja himself has stoutly defended his case through the media, as he has always done, but the ‘Chennai connection’ is what seems to be worrying his DMK, the bête noire of the ruling party in the state.
At a well-attended DMK women’s wing conference demanding prohibition in the state, party treasurer and former deputy chief minister M K Stalin reiterated that Karunanidhi would be the chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming polls.
It was the second time that Stalin was making this pronouncement in as many years -- or even less. His supporters and many party cadres have been hoping for Karunanidhi to anoint Stalin as the party’s CM candidate.
With a relatively clean image for any politician in the state, Stalin however suffers from the inherent inability to be acknowledged as a prospective CM by the DMK’s prospective allies.
Stalin’s supporters want to believe that any electoral call that he would provide a ‘clean government’ could resonate well with the voters, where the numerically-strong GenNext is looking for ‘continuity with change’ at the highest levels.
It may also have to do with the age factor, where other leaders of intended alliance parties in the same or similar age group from other parties are unable to accept Stalin’s stewardship. They have no problem with the octogenarian Karunanidhi. The DMK cadres too have no problem, but they want early clarity and direction on the subject.
In all this high drama, it is the state BJP that seems more confused than ever. Like the Congress rival and the BJP predecessor in Vajpayee before it, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership too seems to have put ‘national compulsions’ above ‘regional considerations’.
Having trained their guns against Jaya since the 2014 elections in particular, many, if not all, state BJP leaders are unsure about what to do and what to expect in what is at present a long run-up to the assembly polls.
Leading the pack is state BJP chief, Tamizhisai Soundararajan, who does not know where to hide her face if the Modi-Jaya luncheon were to also lead to an election alliance in the state. They all have suddenly become fence-sitters.
In comparison, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam’s star-politician Vijaykanth seems wanting to continue having the cake and eating it, too. The party does not seem to be overly upset with the ‘new signals’ emanating from the former BJP ally to the ‘rival’ AIADMK since.
The DMDK has concluded that any electoral arrangement without and against the ruling AIADMK cannot be electorally successful without it. But this can cut both ways, in the short, medium and long terms, as the Pattali Makkal Katchi’s father-son Ramadoss duo have since found out, and rather too late.
Caught in the midst of all this and more is state Congress president E V K S Elangovan, who suddenly became the target of both AIADMK and BJP cadres for reportedly making an in-bad-taste comment about the Modi-Jaya luncheon.
But not loath to some free publicity, even of the negative kind, Elangovan and his camp followers within the truncated state Congress were not ones to give up that easily.
It all ended only after Jayalalithaa asked her party cadres to end their protests, whose highlight was the burning of Elangovan’s effigy all across the state.
The worse is not yet over for Elangovan. Granted anticipatory bail in a criminal case of harassment filed by a woman staff at the TNCC trust office, of which the state Congress chief is the ex officio head, Elangovan has been asked to stay put in the temple town of Madurai.
Never-say-die man that he is, Elangovan is not incapable of surprising his detractors, both within the state Congress and otherwise, with his controversial statements and tongue-in-cheek observations.
Image: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. Photograph: R Senthil Kumar/PTI Photo.
N Sathiya Moorthy, veteran journalist and political analyst, is Director, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter.