Amid political crisis in Tamil Nadu, where nothing is really coming to a conclusion, the Governor indicated that he may wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict on the wealth case of V.K. Sasikala. It is a battle of nerves between the rival camps of AIADMK General Secretary and interim Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam. Meanwhile, Sasikala is holding discussions with party MLAs and in a dramatic development, ten MPs, including Ashok Kumar from Krishnagiri and P.R. Sundaram from Namakkal, extended support to the Panneerselvam. P.R. Sundaram was one of four MLAs who managed to win the Assembly elections in 1996. Even Jayalalithaa was defeated in those elections. Tamil Nadu’s prominent actors to big celebrities everyone extended their support to Panneerselvam as none of them are so confident about the intentions of Sasikala. According to AIADMK, 131 MLAs are supporting Sasikala. However, it is unclear if all of them are at the Golden Bay Resorts.
This is not the first time but the similar battle to take control over the AIADMK party commenced no sooner than December 24, 1987 – the day MGR died his wife Janaki was asked by party members to take his place. She succeeded him as the Leader of the AIADMK party, which subsequently split into two factions. Janaki Ramachandran became Chief Minister in January 1988 soon after her husband’s death, but her government lasted only 24 days, the shortest in the history of Tamil Nadu. Her ministry won the vote of confidence of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly but the Central Government under the late Rajiv Gandhi used Article 356 of the Constitution of India to dismiss her government in February the same year. Her party was subsequently defeated in the next elections that were held in 1989. She quit politics after the unification of the two factions of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. She surrendered to the pressure of senior leaders like RM Veerappan, who wanted to keep Jayalalithaa out of the party at any cost. Many still vividly remember the image of Jayalalithaa being pushed and abused by party leaders like KP Ramalingam from atop the gun carriage carrying MGR’s body during his funeral procession.
Jayalalithaa, on the other hand, who had been hand-picked by MGR and inducted into the party in 1982, had been waiting in the wings to take over the AIADMK. One of the main reasons MGR brought Jayalalithaa into the party then, was because there had been no one else who was popular and could win over voters. And while MGR had groomed Jayalalithaa, he stopped short of announcing her as his political heir.
With MGR’s heroines claiming their right to his legacy, the campaigning befitted the occasion. Old movie posters featuring the late matinee idol and a young Jayalalithaa were spruced up and pasted across towns. Although MGR’s fan clubs were divided over whom to support, Janaki managed to win the support of another leading man in the film industry – Sivaji Ganesan, who had exited the Congress to start his own party.
If we go in little flash back, it was September 1979 when India was going through a politically uncertain period. It had been two years since the Emergency. Charan Singh was caretaker Prime Minister, having had to resign after 24 days as Congress (I)’s Indira Gandhi withdrew support to his government. Just weeks earlier, India’s first non-Congress Prime Minister Morarji Desai was forced to resign after mass defections from his Janata Party coalition. The political landscape of Tamil Nadu may have been vastly different if former Union Minister Biju Patnaik’s master plan had succeeded. He had attempted what looks a distant dream now – the merger of the DMK and the AIADMK.
In Tamil Nadu, MG Ramachandran (MGR) was two years into his first term as Chief Minister. His party, the AIADMK had lent support to Charan Singh’s government. With India facing general elections once again, MGR was now in talks with Indira Gandhi. However, when a scheduled meeting between Indira Gandhi and MGR failed to materialise, Patnaik swooped in. He then shared a good rapport with DMK Chief M. Karunanidhi especially following DMK’s nation-wide movement for state autonomy vis-a-vis centre-state relations in the early 1970s. On September 12, 1979, Patnaik brought up the idea of merging the DMK and the AIADMK with Karunanidhi at his residence in Madras (now Chennai). When the DMK patriarch wondered whose suggestion it was, Patnaik explained that it was MGR who had sought the merger and wanted to know Karunanidhi’s conditions. The political landscape of Tamil Nadu may have been vastly different but BJP and Congress played it role very aggressively. Right now to change the equations, RSS is preparing superstar Rajnikanth to form a political party on the lines of the outfit’s ideology. If he launches his own party in Tamil Nadu then remaining other state parties will go to the docks, as he has huge fan following in the state. At this moment whosoever becomes CM, let it be Sasikala or Panneerselvam, soon the equations will change.
Now, there will be a final call within a day or two on who will be succeeding her as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
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