VK Sasikala or O Panneerselvam – who will be Tamil Nadu’s next chief minister? The battle has commenced, and the warriors have taken their corners. If Sasikala has the backing of legislators, Panneerselvam is relying on mass support.
Isn’t this battle between two political leaders reminiscent of another political feud?
It was thirty years ago when Tamil Nadu’s popular Chief Minister MG Ramachandran was counting his last breaths in a hospital in the US. Back home in the state, the power struggle had already commenced with Jayalalithaa on one side and MGR’s wife Janaki Ramachandran on the other.
Matters came to a head in December 1987 with MGR’s death. Jayalalithaa, who had gone to pay condolences on MGR’s death, was publicly humiliated. Following this, AIADMK members proposed a vote of confidence in the Assembly. Amma chose to stay out of the House along with her 33 MPs. The then Speaker PH Pandian, suspended Jayalalithaa and the MPs. After this, Janaki easily won the vote of confidence.
As the Centre got more and more interested in the internal discord of the party, Jayalalithaa’s faction was strengthened. Within just a couple of months, Janaki Ramachandran’s government was suspended. Is Tamil Nadu all set to see an action replay three decades later?
If chatter is to be believed, Governor and former BJP minister C Vidyasagar has given enough time to Panneerselvam to prepare an offensive.
Sasikala’s husband Chandrasekar has spent the past month in Delhi meeting Congress leaders, according to reports. If Sasikala comes to power, she is likely to lean towards the Congress.
These activities were closely watched by the BJP. In such a scenario, the party has extended its support to Panneerselvam in order to maintain its influence on the Tamil Nadu government.
Panneerselvam Reaching Out to the Masses?
After starting his offensive against Chinnamma, Panneerselvam has begun to divulge details which are likely to gain him popular support.
OPS said that he used to visit the hospital everyday to meet Amma, but was not allowed even once. He added that there is someone behind her death and that he will get it investigated.
Panneerselvam said that he became the chief minister twice because Jayalalithaa desired so. He asserted that no one can take away the post of treasurer from him because she had given him the post.
OPS claimed that he was removed from the post because he opposed Sasikala. He added that he will travel across the state, present his case before the people and prove his power in the Assembly.
Sasikala is also facing considerable opposition in the state, ranging from renowned personalities to the common people. Support for Panneerselvam by celebrities like Rajinikanth and R Ashwin is likely to add to her problems.
Along with this, rumours of Jayalalithaa being poisoned are rife in Tamil Nadu. Consequently, Panneerselvam’s intentions to get her death investigated holds promise for the people in the state.
But Why is History Being Made to Repeat Itself?
It is usual for political parties in India to become overly reliant on a single leader. The most recent example is the Aam Aadmi Party led by Arvind Kejriwal, where smaller leaders seldom get a voice. Mayawati-led BSP and Mamata Banerjee-led TMC are other examples.
Political analyst Sandeep Shastri believes that the lack of internal democracy in Indian political parties is a major reason for this. Consequently, charismatic leaders exiting a party leads to internal struggles.
During the succession struggle 30 years ago, Jayalalithaa had managed to secure backing from Delhi. Will Delhi once again determine the fate of Tamil Nadu elections and Jayalalithaa’s successor in 2017?
(This story was originally published on Quint Hindi. It has been translated to English by Rosheena Zehra.)