Putting Poor Health Behind Her, Jaya Juggernaut Rolls On In TN

But Jaya’s declining health poses questions for her ability to administer the state she just won, writes RK Raghavan

3 min read

AIADMK cadres, with their bodies painted, celebrate the party’s victory  outside Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence in Chennai on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)

As I write this from my home in south Chennai, the thunder of firecrackers in neighbouring Poes Garden – home of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa – has not stopped, dwarfing every other sound. Jaya’s is a sweet victory fought against great odds. Braving what is described as a serious medical condition and the relentless calumny of her detractors – chiefly the DMK – she wrested an unbelievable victory to assume office for the third time. In doing so, she broke a record. No chief minister in the past three decades has been re-elected without a break.

Jayalalithaa came to conquer by assuring that she would reintroduce prohibition, something many women her bastion had supposedly held against her. She announced more freebies to placate an electorate, some of whom, it was feared, would move away from her. How the state exchequer will bear the burden is anybody’s guess.


DMK’s Good Show

Jaya went alone, and this paid off handsomely. In doing so, she called the bluff of smaller parties – mainly caste groups – who were something of an albatross around her neck. This victory should help her rid herself of the need to pander to caste divisions for which the state is so well known.

But Jaya has reasons to worry about the DMK’s good showing – 60 seats more than the last elections. According to first estimates, both AIADMK and DMK had the same – 40 percent of votes. She may not, however, be overawed by this, as DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi is pushing 92, and Stalin derives his clout from being his son. His standing is likely to wane after his father’s time. He also has to contend with his rebel  brother, Alagiri, who is not reconciled to having been sidelined. The feud between the brothers is relentless, and this is likely to intensify in the days to come.


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa is greeted by a party cadre after the party’s win in the state Assembly polls, in Chennai on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa is greeted by a party cadre after the party’s win in the state Assembly polls, in Chennai on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)

Declining Health

The one criticism against Jaya is that she is imperious and inaccessible. But then, the Jaya of today is not the same as of a decade ago. She has mellowed greatly and knows how to play her cards well. She knows, too, that the Centre can help her a great deal by way of fiscal assistance. Her relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been cordial, although she may not exactly be cordial with the state BJP. That is her style. Friendship with those who matter, and contempt for the others!

Many of Jaya’s well-wishers would want her to be more accessible to her officials. But she is known for keeping everybody at a distance and in suspense.

Jaya’s greatest quality is her decisiveness. This is particularly in the area of law and order. Gone are the DMK days when even the smallest functionary could walk into a police station and make illegal demands. The question is, how long will she be able to maintain her hold against declining health?


Jaya Sets a Record

  • Despite setting a record – that of an incumbent making it to power again in Tamil Nadu – DMK’s good show is a cause of worry for Jaya.
  • DMK has to set its own house in order with the feud between Alagiri and Stalin likely to intensify in the coming days.
  • While AIADMK may rejoice at its recent victory, Jaya’s declining health poses a question for her ability to administer.

I have served five chief ministers. She was the most articulate and firm of all of them. If a decision had to be taken, she would never procrastinate. That is her mantra for success.

I have fond memories of her. She graced my son’s wedding, and stayed on for an hour.  It is an entirely different matter that our paths departed thereafter. Given good health, she is probably destined for greater honours in national life.

(The writer is a former CBI Director)

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