December 5, 2016 – The day that changed Tamil Nadu politics forever. It’s been one year since AIADMK Supremo Jayalalithaa passed away and the after effects are yet to subside.
The people of Tamil Nadu have seen a high voltage political drama for the past one year and it is showing no signs of slowing down. The unique stories of betrayal, defection, opportunism and loyalty by AIADMK men has just left the people amazed.
After witnessing what has happened in the State for the past one year one may wonder what exactly has Jaya left for the people of Tamil Nadu?
Kamaraj, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is known as a Kingmaker in Indian Politics, even today is remembered in Tamil Nadu as someone who built dams, introduced the idea of free education and mid-day meal that changed many lives in the State.
MGR a charismatic leader and founder of AIADMK is still worshipped by the poor and the downtrodden for his socio-development programs. Still lakhs of votes in Tamil Nadu are polled in the name of MGR and that is the kind of legacy he had left.
During a conversation with my friend on the recent political developments in the State this question was thrown at me – What is the legacy that Jayalalithaa has left? And it turned out to be one of the toughest questions ever.
One cannot answer this question so easily. But after carefully analysing the life and times of Jayalalithaa, she is a classic example of how not to be a leader. What Jaya has left is a case study for all politicians, trail of corruption which is yet to be traced and a bunch of incompetent cronies who can’t even run their own party. After looking at what is happening in the State, for me Jayalalithaa appears to be a greedy politician.
No doubt she was an influential politician, she was authoritative, a great influence and she came across as a politician who was strong. But her death seems to have opened a can of worms and the AIADMK leaders are seen washing their dirty linen in public tarnishing everything that she had safeguarded behind the four walls of Poes Garden and exposing their own leader.
One cannot forget a furious Jaya challenging the Opposition on the floor of Tamil Nadu Assembly that even after 100 years AIADMK will be a force to reckon with and no one can destroy the party. One cannot assume on what basis Jaya made this claim but the fact is the party is imploding. To put it simply, the party that was founded by MGR and run by her is right now on a self-destruction mode.
No one can be blamed for this mess except Jaya herself, her self-centred approach towards Governance, Party affairs and her own personal life that has caused irreparable damage not only to the party but also to the State. The manner in which she was conducting the day today affairs of Tamil Nadu government and the AIADMK bears testimony to this fact.
When Jaya was at the helm of affairs in the State she had everything under her control including corruption. Wait a moment! She did not end corruption, rather she centralised corruption. Believe it or not, all transactions were routed to Veda Nilayam. The license to loot was outsourced to the Mannargudi family which was carrying out all operations with the blessings of Jayalalithaa.
For the past 30 years the Mannargudi Mafia has ruled the roost in Tamil Nadu. Sasikala and co’s interference into the affairs of Government or party was no secret. Without holding any official positions in the government, Sasikala and her entire clan were well versed with the nitty gritty of State Administration. This happened only because of Jayalaithaa. If she wanted to stop them she could have done it long ago, but sadly that was not the case. Is this the legacy that AIADMK wants the people of Tamil Nadu to cherish?
The revelations made by the Income tax department after carrying out raids at the residences of Anbunathan, Shekar Reddy, Former Chief Secretary Ram Mohan Rao and family, Tamil Nadu Health Minister Vijaybhaskar and Sasikala’s business empire are just tip of the ice berg. The rot runs deeper and unfortunately the governments lack political will to probe further.
Now, Jaya is no more and it seems that the flood gates for corruption are open. Corruption has become rampant at all levels in Tamil Nadu government. Thanks to Jayalalithaa for nurturing a unique breed of greedy politicians who have plundered the State. The bureaucracy which was under her iron fist is now on the loose, there is neither anyone to control them nor question. As the days of this government are numbered, more than governance, it’s corruption that is dominating the State Administration. Now that even Sasikala is sidelined, corruption is decentralised and it’s free for all.
If you ever wonder why EPS or OPS are dancing to the tunes of Narendra Modi and BJP, is to make sure that they don’t attract Prevention of Corruption Act. With the help of central agencies, sources say Modi is in possession of a log book that has the list of sins committed by Amma and her cronies.
Coming to the affairs of the party, as far as AIADMK is concerned it was only about Jayalalithaa. Everything began and ended with Poes Garden. MGR too had the same style of functioning but he had created a strong second line leadership, which was guiding him. With Jayalalithaa , she had no advisors nor she was ready to listen to anyone. Even she used to reject adverse intelligence reports on critical issues. A famous anecdote among Tamil Nadu intelligence officials is during 2006 assembly elections, an intelligence report was submitted to Jaya by the SBCID, which predicted close to 60 seats and she rejected it terming it as ‘False Report’ (In 2006 AIADMK won in 61 seats). She did not allow anyone to grow within the organisation which is the prime reason for all the mess that the party has witnessed today. Call it dictatorial attitude or insecurity, Jaya spared none when it came to becoming popular within the party.
One classic example was that of the then assembly speaker and now TN Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar. He was forced to give up his assembly speaker’s post because some of his over enthusiastic supporters had termed him as ‘the soon to be Chief Minister’ in one of the posters that cropped up during his birthday day in North Chennai.
Even senior leaders who were identified as a pillar of strength for MGR like Panruti Ramachandran, Ponnaiyan etc were reduced to nobody within the party. Sycophancy was appreciated and rewarded at all levels, though Jaya used to claim that AIADMK will follow the path of Dravidian icons Periyar and Anna the party lacked any ideological moorings. Contrary to the teachings of Periyar and Anna who emphasised on Self-respect, the word was ‘deleted’ from the AIADMK dictionary. The party had no space for people with self-respect or someone who can think on his own. An average worker of a communist party would easily defeat an AIADMK leader in a debate on critical subjects, if you even wonder why AIADMK leaders or minister’s make bizzare statements off late in the media? The reasons are too obvious and warrant no explanation.
The BJP or PM Narendra Modi did not dare to think of gaining a foot hold in Tamil Nadu when Jaya was alive. Jayalalithaa’s conviction in the disproportionate assets case gave BJP a ray of hope to breach the Dravidian bastion. The BJP had mega plans of sending Union Minister’s for a campaign to Tamil Nadu as part of their expansion plans. That plan was dropped abruptly because Modi was aware that antagonizing Jaya will have its own consequences. The dramatic return of Jaya after Karnataka High Court verdict forced BJP to shelve their plans.
As the Russian saying goes, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are…” A Political party is identified by its leadership, the character of the party is assessed by its strong ideological foundations. In the case of AIADMK it turned out to be wrong, because the fulcrum of this party is nothing but one upmanship. If one goes through the by-laws of the AIADMK, it will show how undemocratic the basis of the party is. The party’s by-Laws gives sweeping powers to the General Secretary who can override any decision adopted in a democratic forum.
If Jayalalithaa had propped up a second line leadership in the party, Tamil Nadu would never have seen the ugly fight for power. Unlike the current leadership of the AIADMK which is unable to withstand any political pressure from the Center, things would have been different. I am convinced as far as Tamil Nadu is concerned both DMK and AIADMK are a force to reckon with for any political party including the BJP that rules the country. But to see a party which has more than 1.5 cr party workers, a party that is ruling the state and the third largest party on the floor of the Indian parliament bending backwards before BJP is a man-made disaster. Right or wrong the people of Tamil Nadu placed their trust in Jaya and voted her back to power in 2016. Today, the mandate of the people of Tamil Nadu has been surrendered before Central government, putting the concept of State autonomy in complete danger.
Who is responsible for this leadership crisis?
Her life is a puzzle, her personal life a mystery and as a person Jayalalithaa was very unpredictable. There have been 2 books about Jaya and none of these books give you any insights about her childhood or her personal life. What kind of person Jayalalithaa was is something that only some of Sasikala and her family members can answer. Everything about Jaya personal life is hearsay, no one is privy to what happens within the four walls of Poes Garden. One of the reasons for why every WhatsApp rumour about Jaya death could not be ruled out was because of the secrecy that shrouded Poes Garden. Secrecy was one of her biggest strengths and weaknesses, but that is what defined Jayalalithaa
She never allowed anyone except Sasikala into her life. Not even her own family members were entertained, forget about Minister’s and party functionaries. If anyone can give us a full picture of Jaya, that would be Sasikala. The raids that were carried out by the Directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption in 1996, gave a sneak peek into Jaya’s lavish life behind the gates of Poes Garden. The visuals and pictures of silk sarees, barrage of shoes, gold jewellery, watches and other belongings were a visual treat for the people of Tamil Nadu and it also gave them a clear idea about the properties accumulated by Jaya through illegal means.
If there was no Jayalalithaa, then there is no Sasikala. The existence of a character called Sasikala in Tamil Nadu politics is only because of Jaya and why she was so important to her is a million dollar question. During 1996, when Jaya was facing the wrath of multiple Central and State agencies, Sasikala was the prime target to destabilize Jaya politically by the Center. Sasikala claimed that she was harassed by the Central agencies for a statement implicating Jaya, which she refused to give. Despite all this Jaya did not spare Sasikala and her family members and their loyalties too were put to test at multiple occasions. Sasikala’s expulsion from Poes Garden in 2011 and the subsequent crackdown on Mannargudi Mafia is one such example.
The gates of Poes Garden will only open to someone of Jayalalithaa wants, that’s about it and that’s how it works, be it for PM or CM. In a sad twist of fate, it was the Income Tax department, which entered into Poes garden, after her death. Even Union Minister Piyush Goel complained about not being able to get an appointment with the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, only to retract his statement later under intense Political pressure.
But at last, the long arm of law caught up with Jaya when she was at the height of power and looked invincible. She nurtured national level political ambitions and made heads turn towards the south once again after she made the AIADMK as the third largest party in the country. She fought back, she made a dramatic comeback, she made history by winning assembly elections back to back something only her mentor was able to secure in the past, but Jayalalithaa was never the same.
For a person who was always conscious of her reputation going to jail at the pinnacle of her political career was the deadliest setback that Jayalalithaa had ever faced in her life. The humiliation of being behind bars crippled her once in for all. According to sources she suffered acute depression and her incarceration took a very bad toll on her health. The signs that all was not well with her was palpable, it became a topic of gossip and was discussed among bureaucrats in hush-hush for almost 7-9 months. Jaya avoided attending public events, travelling out of Chennai and staying out of Poes Garden was not an option. This was obvious during her 2016 assembly election campaign and after assuming charge as the Chief Minister for the 6th time, the frequency of visits to office came down. Her last public appearance was on September 22nd, 2016.
The next 75 days were just mysterious. Jaya’s hospitalization became a subject of rumour, gossip and speculation. None was allowed to meet her, but everyone spoke as if they met her in person. Jayalalithaa being the person she is on the 2 or 3rd day in Hospital when her secretaries met her guess what she wanted to know? What is the media reporting about my hospitalization? – this clearly goes to show how conscious she was about her image. She just simply didn’t want to appear weak in front of her political opponents. Probably it could be the reason she never got herself admitted in a hospital for treatment.
December 4th, she suffered 2nd cardiac arrest and doctors were helpless. Her condition worsened and the medical team that was attending her couldn’t revive her. Jaya was declared dead on December 5,2016 at around 11.30 pm.
The rest is history. The power-hungry vultures were out and an ugly fight for power is underway in Tamil Nadu. Who wins and who loses is yet to be seen, but this fight for power between Sasikala, EPS and OPS has only exposed Jayalalithaa further.