Tamil Nadu and its polity is like the game of Cricket in India. The whole political spectrum like the cricket team is treated as a religion. And few politicians akin to select cricketers embroiled in superstardom are worshipped and capitulated as demigods. When such a caricatured politician rules the roost, the state will ascend to their glory. However, when they die, it spawns a cascade of events that changes the very way a state can function. A sea of mourners and the waves spreading across the state with some even becoming suicidal follows.
This is exactly what had happened when the legendary MGR who had established the AIADMK had passed away. Now when his political scion in the form of Jayalalithaa died, the same glaring effect is visible may not be wholly in that measure but still substantial. But apart from reaction and fallout to their deaths, there is one more thing which is strikingly similar if not an exact replication and that is the successional political battling between the next generation leaders within the party fold. Political parties especially ascribed to such one individual show always plunges into a crisis post end of the same cult figures.
Following an untimely death of Jayalalithaa, her close aide O Paneerselvam popularly known as OPS was anointed as the caretaker CM. As the state was yet to recover from the shockwaves of passing away of its beloved figurehead, AIADMK leader and an alleged Jayalalithaa conscience keeper Sasikala Natarajan is trying to pull a coup of sorts by attempting to occupy the coveted CMs chair. And with OPS revolting, the fight has thrown the state into an unprecedented political crisis and a seemingly harsh tug of factional war within the AIADMK.
How is the situation following Jayalalithaa’s death in which Sasikala and OPS are fighting for supremacy, similar to the one that took place after MGR’s death when Jayalalithaa and Janaki locked horns?
In 1987, after MGR passed away, AIADMK was factionally divided into two groups, one favouring Jayalalithaa, whom MGR had groomed to make her his political heir which officially didn’t materialise and the other led by his wife Janaki who supposedly was going to inherit his political legacy in the legal sense.
However, there were two factors which made Jayalalithaa his real successor. Primarily she was charismatically popular amongst the cadres and people and secondly yet decisively she had traded an anti-Karunanidhi position which was in the DNA of an AIADMK worker. Janaki on the contrary had praised the DMK chief and her attempts to capture MGRs legacy was mired by anti-Jayalalithaa leaders who all together were bent upon stopping Jayalalithaa as the future leader. In the elections post MGR in 1989, DMK won the elections, however AIADMK spilt into it two parts. It gave 27 seats to Jayalalithaa faction paving way in her side that sealed the successional tussle between the warring leaders.
In the present ensuing situation, the battle has just begun however the numbers in terms of support from legislators will be crucial as fresh elections anyway are way ahead. At the face of it, OPS can be likened with Jayalalithaa of 1987 and Sasikala can be considered as the Janaki. The fundamental difference off course is the fact that OPS was not really groomed as a successor but somewhat has imbibed his political master’s stewardess and calmness to handle governance issues amicably. May it be so the Jallikatu issue or the oil crisis and so on, OPS has demonstrated effective leadership qualities along with maintaining formidable ties with the centre. So even if he may not be in the same Jaya league and stature post MGR, nevertheless his revolt and style has certainly galvanised the cadre and ruffled many feathers. Sasikala can be a reincarnation of Janaki owing to her proximity to the Congress (with reports of her husband had met Sibal to discuss support) and her lacklustre desperate tread milling to the throne. Although Janaki was more about stopping Jaya and seeking revenge owing to influence of certain AIADMK leaders, Sasikala is power prone and her unceremonious ways of having undue influence on Jayalalithaa are very well known.
There is an uncanny resemblance to the way the factions are pitted now as they were then post MGR. Both are claiming majority of the MLA support and a possible vote of confidence on the floor of the house to prove majority for OPS will be on the cards. Offset Sasikala may be having more number of legislators, OPS has cadre based emotional connect along with support from Jayalalithaa’s family like her niece Deepa who too are voicing dissatisfaction over Sasikala. In 1987, Janaki had won the vote of confidence after speaker PH Pandian who had ruled in her favour by dismissing six members had eased her passage. This led to Janaki being the CM but it was short lived after Rajiv Gandhi imposed presidents rule and in fresh elections, Jayalalithaa emerged winner as both factions later united under the symbol of two leaves. The same can be expected here as even if Sasikala can pull the mathematical calculations now, in the long run her political future may not hold for too long in a state where defections hold no water over emotional sway.
There are other immense problems for Sasikala too as it’s widely assumed her government may in actuality lean to Congress and that is also why Modi Govt has thrown all weight around OPS. The courts too is adding more problems as Supreme Court ruling on dis appropriate case on Sasikala may impede her prospects further into the an already chaotic take over sprint by her.
The tactical time given by governor Vidya Sagar Rao to OPS, the cadre support in lieu with emotional purview, the seemingly good administrator traits by OPS, the support by he Modi govt and the Supreme Court inching closer are all knives out against Sasikala. With growing chorus about the controversy pertaining to Jayalalithaa’s death, it seems to be adding more more fuel to the fire.
As the fight seems to be heading towards multifaceted fronts, the outcome shifting towards anybody in contention will surely push one pole of Tamil politics into a resurrecting realignment of sorts which is dangling between OPS who may have stroked the pulse of his party and Sasikala who is trying to subvert it.