Disturbing Jaya Video: Dhinakaran’s Gamble Can Go Either Way
An opinion poll conducted among 3,000 respondents in RK Nagar constituency last week on a regional TV news channel said TTV Dhinakaran with 27 percent vote was trailing behind AIADMK’s E Madhusudanan (35 percent) and DMK’s Maruthu Ganesh (34 percent).
While the psephologists predicted that VK Sasikala’s nephew had the potential to play spoilsport for the ruling party by splitting the traditional AIADMK vote, the poll results showed he needed to indulge in some aggressive pinch-hitting to beat the first-past-the-post system in the byelection on Thursday, 21 December.
Political Intention Behind Releasing Jaya Video
Desperate situations usually call for desperate measures. The Mannargudi family decided to play a gamble and dug out of the cupboard a 20-second video of Jayalalithaa that was shot while she was at the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai.
In the video, Jayalalithaa is seen watching TV (not in the frame) and sipping a liquid from a glass. It was reportedly Sasikala who shot the video but it is not clear whether Jayalalithaa was aware that she was being captured on camera, because she does not look at it even once.
It is this video that will prove to be a Dhoni sixer, Dhinakaran would hope. The problem is that it has created a furore over how Jayalalithaa’s privacy has been intruded for selfish political reasons, and it runs the risk of undoing even the support base Dhinakaran had built during his campaign so far.
The fact that his camp chose to release it a day before RK Nagar votes reveals the crass political motive.
Hypocrisy of Protests by the AIADMK
But make no mistake about it, the video has taken the AIADMK and the DMK by surprise. They know the damage the video can do to the prospects of their candidates in RK Nagar.
For long, the AIADMK leaders have built a case through whisper campaigns on Whatsapp that Sasikala’s role in Jayalalithaa’s last days should be probed. O Panneerselvam had made this an issue for his revolt which is why a one-man judicial commission was set up as well. This video nips those conspiracy theories in the bud to an extent.
Which is why enough pressure was mounted to ensure that the Election Commission directed TV channels to stop carrying the video. The possibility of legal action against Dhinakaran and suspended MLA, Vetrivel, who released the video is also being mulled.
“My wish,” said Vetrivel brusquely, when he was asked why he chose to release the video now and not in the last one year.
But while Dhinakaran’s ploy to make use of a dead person is deplorable, the AIADMK’s protest also borders on hypocrisy. It is the same party whose senior leader and now minister K Pandiarajan campaigned in RK Nagar in April during the election that was subsequently rescinded, with a dummy coffin of Jayalalithaa.
How is it that none of these wise men of AIADMK who are in protest mode now, did not think then that what they were doing was reprehensible. They withdrew it only after they got flak over it in electronic and social media.
Free and Fair Polls: Distant Dream in RK Nagar
It is the job of the Election Commission (EC) to conduct free and fair election and ensure no one has an unfair advantage. Step into RK Nagar and you will realise this byelection is anything but free of money power. Voters are being bribed with Rs 6,000 for a vote rather openly, with flying squads of the EC only ornamental in nature.
What’s more, even the voters are willing to be bribed, demanding cash as a matter of right. The question that then arises is when the Commission cannot stop distribution of money, can it only stop distribution of video content.
For the past many days, there have been several representations asking the EC to rescind the RK Nagar byelection, pointing to rampant distribution of money for votes. The EC in its wisdom has chosen to go ahead with a tainted election on Thursday. This is in contrast with its stand in April when the EC chose to call off the poll, at a time when the amount being distributed was Rs 4,000 for a vote.
Why No Objection Over Jaya’s Audio Message
While it is accepted that the video will influence the voter, it does not show Jayalalithaa putting out a message asking the people of RK Nagar to vote for Dhinakaran. So technically speaking, will it still be construed as campaigning after the last date of canvassing for votes?
If using a dead person for votes is an issue, pray on what grounds did the AIADMK use Jayalalithaa’s voice in recorded messages over the phone, with her voice patched to make it seem she is asking for votes for Madhusudanan. If propriety and ethical behaviour is an issue with the video, even the audio messages ought to be an issue.
Going by public reaction and the outrage from Jayalalithaa’s admirers, Dhinakaran's gamble can go either way. It may convince people of Sasikala’s innocence, helping Dhinakaran. Alternately, anger against his move could mar his chances at the hustings.
(The writer is a senior journalist. He can be reached @Iamtssudhir. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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