“The present scenario has opened up a great opportunity for the BJP: increasing membership, creating Hindu vote bank, politics of corruption and crime being practised by the Dravidian parties for more than five decades, mismanagement of temples, cow slaughter and cattle trafficking, growth of evangelism, rise in Islamic fundamentalism, assaults and murders of Hindu leaders and activists are some of the major avenues through which the party can reach out to the masses. … The Sri Lankan Tamils issue and the fishermen issue could be properly addressed to win the hearts of Tamils.” – B. R. Haran
In a legal battle which had been prolonged for 18 years by Jayalalithaa by utilising the loopholes in the system, Special judge John Michael Cunha convicted her of amassing wealth disproportionate to her known income and sentenced her to four years simple imprisonment and Rs.100 crore fine. Her associates Sasikala, Ilavarasi and Jaya’s foster son and Sasikala’s nephew V. N. Sudhakaran were also sentenced for the same period with a fine of Rs. 10 crores each. As a consequence, she lost her chief minister post and the membership of the Legislative Assembly. In addition to it, she will not be able to contest elections for six years from the date of release, as she stands disqualified as per law. This will keep her away from active politics for about ten years.
It all started with Dr. Subramanian Swamy files a complaint against Jayalalithaa on June 14, 1996. The then DMK government directed the DVAC to register FIR against her for possession of unaccounted wealth. Charge sheet was also filed against her and the three others. As most of the witnesses turned hostile after her coming back to power in 2001, DMK’s Anbazhagan and Dr. Swamy moved to the Supreme Court on February 2003 for transfer of trial from Tamil Nadu and the SC transferred it to Karnataka. A Special Court was set up in December 2003 and trials proceeded. As the trials were going on in Bangalore, she could not use her influence despite coming back to power in 2011. In between her every attempt to approach the Supreme Court for interim relief was rejected by the SC which sent her and her associates back to Karnataka Special court. Ultimately, she had to appear twice in person to answer more than a thousand questions posed by the Special Court. Trial concluded on August 28, 2014 and finally the conviction orders were pronounced on September 27. Her appeal and bail application was refused by the Karnataka High Court on October 7. Justice A.V. Chandrashekhara, in his order pronounced in a packed court room that there “are no grounds” to give bail to the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and observed that corruption amounts to “violation of human rights” and leads to economic imbalance.
Audacious and Mysterious
It must be to the credit of Jayalalithaa that she fought very hard against all odds to reach this level in politics. Though she remained as actor and former Chief Minister Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran’s favourite heroine in films, MGR admitted her into his party only in 1982 and then made her as the Party’s Propaganda Secretary in 1983. In 1984, he nominated and sent her to the Rajya Sabha. After MGR’s death in 1987, she took over the party and thwarted the attempt of a few seniors to create a division. Though the seniors were able to send her out and made MGR’s wife Janaki as the Chief Minister, they could not sustain as the cadres and majority of second rung leaders supported Jayalalithaa. Rajiv Gandhi government at the centre dismissed Janaki Ramachandran’s government within twenty days by using Article 356.
Then when DMK won the 1989 Assembly elections and formed the government, Jayalalithaa became the Leader of the Opposition. She gained sympathy of the people when she was assaulted and harassed by the DMK legislators inside the Assembly. Subsequently, the DMK government was dismissed by Chandrasekar-led central government for pro-LTTE activities.
Then riding along the sympathy wave caused by Rajiv’s assassination, she led her party to victory in the 1991 Assembly elections and formed the government.
In the meantime, when she was serving AIADMK as Propaganda Secretary she was approached by Sasikala, who owned a Video Cassette library then. Sasikala’s husband Natarajan was serving the government as Public Relations Officer. Slowly and steadily Sasikala won her confidence and got into her good books and ultimately entered her residence too as a trusted associate.
This act of Jayalalithaa in taking Sasikala as a trusted associate turned out to be a huge mistake, which she seems to have not realised fully till date despite her intelligence and political acumen. The events that unfolded from 1991 to 1996 when she was in power stand testimony for the alleged fact that Sasikala took full control of administration behind the scenes, involving corruption, cunningness and crime. The various media reports during that period too indicate the same. If one goes through those reports, one can get to know the long list of corrupt deals and crimes such as Pleasant Stay Hotel Case, Burning alive of three college girls by AIADMK cadres, killing of two journalists working for Tamil weekly Tharasu, acquisition of land belonging to TANSI (Tamil Nadu Small Industries Corporation), disinvestment of TIDCO’s shares to SPIC, attacking IAS officer Chandralekha by throwing acid on her face, multi-crore colour TV scam, disproportionate assets case, etc., to name a few. A compilation and fine editing of those media reports will produce a voluminous political thriller. The corruption and crime unleashed by Sasikala and her family brought the downfall of Jayalalithaa’s government in 1996 elections. Since then she had sent her out twice, but only to admit her back after a small duration of separation. It has always been an unsolved mystery.
The DMK won the 1996 elections and after forming government, it filed a flurry of cases against Jayalalithaa and her associates. Subramanian Swamy for his part filed this disproportionate case against Jayalalithaa. While Jayalalithaa was able to come out clean in all the other cases during her second term between 2001 and 2006, she couldn’t come out of this disproportionate assets case.
In the long drawn legal process, the case saw several judges and public prosecutors. It also exposed the loopholes of the legal system and how they could be utilised by the corrupt who are in power to subvert the trial and obstruct and delay the judicial process. As the saying “justice delayed is justice denied” goes, she was able to enjoy power twice despite getting charge sheeted. Nevertheless, justice saw the light of the day finally. Jayalalithaa has become the first serving Chief Minister to be convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
A bunch of zeroes and a lawless state
When MGR was at his peak, a politician said, “MGR is number one and other ministers are zeroes behind him.” The same culture remains in the party even now. Jayalalithaa is number one and the rest are all zeroes. On the day of verdict (September 27) all ministers have gone to Bangalore and there was no one to take care of the administration. When the news of her conviction spread, violence and arson were unleashed by AIADMK cadres. Two buses were burnt down in Kanchipuram and Tuticorin; shops and vehicles were attacked; movement of traffic was disrupted; residences of DMK Chief Karunanidhi and the BJP leader Subramanian Swamy were attacked; attempted suicides happened across the state. Finally on instructions from Union Home Ministry, the governor had to call senior government officials and police officers for an urgent meeting to maintain law and order. Fortunately, the next day being Sunday, shops and establishments remained closed and people also didn’t come out of their homes.
Though the administration seemed to have taken control of the situation, AIADMK cadres continue their protests across the state. Fasting; abstaining from work, processions, etc are going on. AIADMK trade unions of all government departments have struck work. AIADMK cadres in fishermen community stayed away from the sea. AIADMK supporters from the film industry forced the entire Kollywood to stop work on Monday the 29th including the suspension of screening of movies. They conducted a protest fast. So far, more than a dozen cadres have committed suicide. Even a police constable who was awarded by Jayalalithaa a couple of years back, attempted to commit suicide in front of DGP’s office. Government school and college students were also forced to abstain from classes and hit the streets protesting against the judgment. HR & CE officials have given oral orders to all the temple priests to conduct special prayers for the release of Jayalalithaa. In major temples like Kapaleeswarar Temple in Chennai, special yagnas and homams were performed. HR & CE staff and staff of many other departments wore black badges on duty! The Chandi homam for Vijayadasami to be performed in important temples has been allegedly cancelled and instead special prayers were performed for her release on instructions from the department.
The nominated Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and other ministers who came back from Bangalore for the swearing-in ceremony, left immediately after it for Bangalore again. They took oath weeping and crying during the swearing-in ceremony. Many leaders, actors and cadres were all seen on TV, particularly Jaya TV, abusing the court and the concerned judge, without even realising that it was an act of contempt of court. Posters condemning Justice Cunha and Karnataka High Court have put up across the state by AIADMK cadres. The height of contempt was a resolution passed by Vellore Municipal Council condemning the judgment! Even the Madras Corporation Council passed a resolution against the verdict. Some DMK councilors, who protested against the naming of Karunanidhi in the resolution, were thrashed and beaten black and blue by the AIADMK councilors including women members.
The way things are going on in the state, governance may take a beating until Jayalalithaa gets bail. The present council of ministers is unlikely to take decisions without her consent, as they are not used to such a situation before, and most of them are also not competent enough to take decisions.
A turning point in Tamil Nadu politics
As things stand now as per law, she is disqualified and cannot contest elections for ten years. That is, the six years term starts from the day of release after four years of imprisonment. Even if she gets bail after hearing of her appeal, the stay of conviction is most unlikely. So, she cannot contest the next elections. If her appeal is dismissed by the High Court, then she cannot expect much from the Supreme Court either. In that case, remote controlling a government for two years and a party for four years will be too difficult, and, the subsequent six years of disqualification will be too much for her as well as the party to sustain and survive in the political arena.
This situation may turn out to be a huge turning point in Tamil Nadu’s politics. Since 2011, the DMK has been on the decline and is in a poor state of health. It was kicked to the third position in 2011 Assembly elections and the party drew a blank in 2014 Parliament elections. The party is at its lowest ebb now. The patriarch Karunanidhi is aging and crossing 90 and is confined to a wheel chair. His family heirs are fighting with each other and the party functionaries are a divided lot too.
The party is also riddled in corruption and its top leaders are facing corruption cases. While former union minister A. Raja and Karuna’s daughter Kanimozhi have already served prison terms and are still fighting the case for 2G Scam, Karuna’s grand nephew and former union minister Dayanidhi Maran, along with his brother Kalanidhi Maran, is also facing CBI enquiries and corruption charges in Aircel-Marxis Deal and for running an illegal telephone exchange at his residence. Having lost its credibility completely, the party is not in a position to take on the AIADMK single-handedly, despite the conviction of Jayalalithaa. It is in need of allies.
The other Dravidian parties are also in a similar kind of situation. They have their own limitations and they are aware of it. After boycotting the by-elections for the local bodies, they have started moving coins for a grand alliance for the forthcoming 2016 Assembly Elections. Though some of them like Vaiko of MDMK and Dr. Ramadoss of PMK pretend to continue in the BJP-led NDA, they seem to be in a mood to get back to DMK. The celebration of former chief minister and Dravidian stalwart Annadurai’s birth anniversary (September 15) came in handy for Vaiko to send a signal to the DMK that Jayalalithaa is the only enemy for all. He also said that all “friends” must unite to defeat her. It is suspected that Vaiko had acted as per the suggestion of Karunanidhi’s elder son Alagiri who wanted to check the attempt of his younger sibling Stalin to become the political heir of Karunanidhi. Karunanidhi for his part sent similar signals to Vaiko, as he wanted to snub Stalin thereby making all his family members to fall in line behind him.
Ever since he came out of DMK and started his own outfit MDMK, Vaiko has been an utter failure in TN politics. He has projected himself as a “separatist” always fighting for the cause of separate Eelam and very rarely talking about local issues concerning the local people. Understanding his worthlessness, both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa preferred to keep him away from their respective alliances during the 2011 Assembly elections, which forced his party to abstain from contesting. Even after joining the BJP-led NDA on the eve of Parliament elections, he couldn’t utilise the ‘Modi Wave’ to his benefit and people rejected him. So, he is left with no other choice but to get back to the DMK.
PMK’s Dr Ramadoss went and met Karunanidhi at his residence for inviting him to his granddaughter’s marriage, which is likely to be held by October end. Since the inception of his party, he has been shifting his loyalty to DMK and AIADMK alternatively, based on the prevailing scenario, thereby enjoying power. However, on the eve of 2011 Assembly elections, he decided to keep equidistant from DMK and AIADMK. But then, as his party’s performance was miserable, he got into he NDA during the run up to the Parliament elections. He and his party leaders have never been comfortable with Vijayakanth and his DMDK and hence, they focused only on their seats during campaign, but could win only one, the Dharmapuri seat contested by Ramadoss’s son Anbumani, former Union Health Minister. As BJP rejected a ministry post to Anbumani on the grounds that he was under the CBI scanner, Ramadoss is waiting for a chance to quit the NDA. So, in all likelihood, he may get back to the DMK led alliance for the forthcoming Assembly elections in 2016.
Actor Vijayakanth has completed his 10th year in politics on September 14, the day on which he founded his party DMDK. Ever since he plunged into politics by starting a new party, he has been projecting his party as a third alternative in the state. Maintaining equidistant from both the mainline Dravidian per cent of votes in his first electoral venture itself. Then his party’s vote-share rose to 12 per cent in the subsequent elections and thereafter it remained a saturation point. Realising that he needed to be in power for some time to gain in stature and increase his party’s vote share, he joined hands with Jayalalithaa in the 2011 Assembly elections, which led his party to the second position. Ultimately he gained the Leader of the Opposition status. However, instead of playing the role of a constructive opposition leader, he started antagonising Jayalalithaa in each and every issue, which made her to poach his MLAs. Now, while seven of his party MLAs have vowed their allegiance to Jayalalithaa, he is unable to take action against them, for the fear of losing the opposition leader status. This made him to join the BJP-led NDA for the Parliament elections, in which, he also drew a blank despite his party’s presence across the state. The party’s vote share has also come down drastically to 4.5 per cent. Having all these limitations in mind, he sent a signal to all the opposition parties during his party’s anniversary celebrations on September 14, by stating that all opposition parties must unite to defeat Jayalalithaa.
Changing alliance equations
The recent moves by Vaiko, Ramadoss and Vijayakanth are telling in the sense that they have realised the fact that Jayalalithaa could be defeated only by forming a mega alliance. DMK patriarch has also sent right signals and a mega alliance may be formed soon in all likelihood. Though Vaiko and Ramadoss would not mind leaving NDA and go to DMK, Vijayakanth may want BJP also in the alliance and Karunanidhi would welcome BJP with glee as the party is ruling at the centre and he would want to exert some influence for the sake of his daughter and grand nephews. However, the BJP would prefer to stay away from the DMK, as it would want to capitalise the weakness of AIADMK. It may even try to retain Vijayakanth within NDA. But the BJP is also aware of the fact that he is also friendly with some of the Congress leaders in the state.
As Communists were snubbed insultingly by the AIADMK during the Assembly poll, they may happily go to DMK’s mega alliance given a chance. That leaves the Congress in a very precarious situation. Out of the two main national parties in the state, BJP has started growing as indicated by the share it gained in the parliament elections and its participation in the local body by-polls while the Congress is almost dead in Tamil Nadu. So, the Congress has only two options to get back to survival, one being holding to Vijayakanth and joining DMK-led alliance and the other being approaching Jayalalithaa with a begging bowl. It is already reported in a section of the press that the Congress leader Ahmed Patel is in touch with Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah requesting him to make the necessary arrangements for the welfare of Jayalalithaa.
As far as AIADMK is concerned, the party’s only aim at present is to get bail for its supremo. With Jayalalithaa in jail, both governance of the state and running of party affairs will suffer a lot. If she is able to get bail, she may be able to guide the council of ministers from outside, while personally taking care of the party affairs. But then, it would not be as good as a government led by her. She may even find out all available opportunities and possibilities to give legal troubles to the opposition leaders. She will also try to utilise the sympathy factor to the hilt and try to attract the masses by announcing a few more of the so-called welfare schemes with the brand name “AMMA”. If her obtaining bail is getting delayed further, then the sympathy factor may vanish in course of time and people will start finding fault with the governance or the lack of it. Expecting the sympathy factor to stay till the time of elections in 2016 will be foolish on the part of AIADMK. As she has already won both the parliament elections and the local body by-polls single-handedly without any alliance partner, she would prefer to go all out in the 2016 Assembly elections as well. If at all she gets any help from the Congress government in Karnataka, she may consider taking it as an alliance partner, which is only a remote possibility. Jayalalithaa would also go all out to make her candidate win her constituency Srirangam in the forthcoming by-election. That would serve as a morale booster for her cadres. Later, if at all she feels the need for support, she may opt for an alliance with the BJP, and that again is a remote possibility considering her style of politics.
The BJP for its part has understood through its experiment in parliament elections that the alliance with ideologically opposite parties such as MDMK, PMK and DMDK would not pay any dividends. So, it would not bother about these parties leaving the NDA and joining DMK. Considering the fact that it had broken its alliance in Haryana and Maharashtra without much botheration, it would not be a surprise if it decides to face the elections alone in Tamil Nadu.
Regrouping of Dravidian and Abrahamic forces
The recent happenings in Tamil Nadu indicate that the Dravidian forces are worried about the rise of the BJP in the state. The Generic Church and the Islamic establishments are more worried. The Dravidian leaders including BJP’s allies in the NDA have not minced any words, while opposing and condemning BJP for its stand on “Sanskrit Week” celebration. Irrespective of the fact that the Sanskrit Day has been celebrated since 1969 and Sanskrit Week since 2001, they made a big hue and cry terming it as imposition of Hindutva ideology on the Tamils through Sanskrit language. They didn’t even bother to note that the Sanskrit Week celebration was suggested only to CBSE schools and not to state board.
Similarly, they all made an issue out of the central government’s notification that the Teachers Day should be celebrated as Guru Utsav for a week. Guru Utsav is an appropriate way of celebrating Teachers Day, as it jells well with our cultural ethos and guru-sishya parampara of this country. But then, the entire Dravidian group vociferously opposed it and the same opposition was extended when UGC had sent a circular to universities with regards to promotion of Hindi. All these things exposed not only the chauvinistic mindset of the Dravidian parties but also their style of politics in which they ‘trade’ the Tamil language without actually doing anything for its growth.
They have started attacking the BJP in the Sri Lankan issue as well. It must be noted that immediately after the elections, BJP’s own allies objected to Modi’s invitation to Rajapakse for the swearing-in ceremony. Vaiko made it a point to go to Delhi and conduct a protest march thereby trying to embarrass Narendra Modi and spoil the swearing-in ceremony. It is an open secret that a separate Tamil Eelam is the agenda of the Generic Church and it is utilising the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu to achieve its Machiavellian agenda.
Political observers can recognise the fact that there is a Christian push behind every Dravidian act in Tamil Nadu. The Generic Church has its influence in almost all the Dravidian parties and the Islamic establishment has also adopted the same strategy to achieve its objectives. The vote bank chasing Dravidian leaders bend themselves to the dictates of the leaders of the Church and Jamath and do whatever they ask them to do. As a result, one can find the slow, steady and unabated rise of Islamic fundamentalism and Christian conversion in the last 47 years of political hegemony of Dravidian parties. On the contrary, the alternative governments run by DMK and AIADMK have done nothing, absolutely nothing, for the growth of Hinduism, preservation of its culture and protection of its temple tradition. They have allowed mushrooming of churches and mosques, most of them very close to the temples, disproportionate to the population of Christians and Muslims respectively.
Though the Modi wave has not resulted in number of seats in the parliament elections, it has nonetheless resulted in a considerable increase in vote share and also awareness among the masses about a credible alternative to the sickening politics of separatism and chauvinism followed by the Dravidian parties for more than five decades. The Modi wave has indeed come like a whiff of fresh air thereby sweeping the Congress out of the political arena. While major parties boycotted the recently held local body by-polls in the state, the BJP contested in almost all the seats, thereby sending the message that it is truly democratic and also serious about electoral politics.
So, it is quite natural that the Dravidian and Abrahamic forces are deeply worried about the rise of the BJP. They are worried about the anticipated creation of a Hindu vote bank. The Dravidian parties are concerned about a considerable loss of vote share from their traditional banks. A large section of supporters of national parties like Congress and Communists has also developed a liking towards the development oriented governance promised by the BJP at the centre resulting in a huge decrease in their vote share. The downfall of the Congress and Communists would also force the Abrahamic forces to rally behind the two major Dravidian parties.
One can expect a formation of two groups, one under DMK and the other under AIADMK, unleashing casteism, communalism, linguistic chauvinism and separatism in Tamil Nadu politics in the days to come. If Jayalalithaa is unable to get bail, then the entire opposition would rally together to crush AIADMK in the forthcoming assembly elections in 2016.
BJP has its task cut out
The present scenario has opened up a great opportunity for the BJP: increasing membership, creating Hindu vote bank, politics of corruption and crime being practised by the Dravidian parties for more than five decades, mismanagement of temples, cow slaughter and cattle trafficking, growth of evangelism, rise in Islamic fundamentalism, assaults and murders of Hindu leaders and activists, etc., are some of the major avenues through which the party can reach out to the masses. It can also take the central government’s development oriented policies to create an impression in the minds of the people. The Sri Lankan Tamils issue and the fishermen issue could be properly addressed to win the hearts of Tamils. The centre could use its diplomatic skills fully to address both the issues and considerable improvement in them would pay excellent dividends in the state. The party can utilise Subramanian Swamy’s crusade against corruption to the hilt by pursuing the scams perpetrated by both the DMK and the Congress. The party may not shy away from attacking Jayalalithaa and AIADMK irrespective of her getting bail or not. The present setback for Jayalalithaa may be fully utilised by the party.
The BJP has its task cut out and it is only the question of how it is going to play its cards. “Faster, Further, Higher” could be the mantra for the BJP in Tamil Nadu. – Uday India, 25 October 2014
» B. R. Haran is a senior journalist in Chennai.
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