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Supreme Court verdict dashes all hopes of Sasikala
DMK gets advantage of AIADMK turmoil
By Amulya Ganguli
All political lives end in failure, said the British conservative politician, Enoch Powell. Sadly for Sasikala, she failed even before her political "life" could begin. The abrupt end to her incipient career terminates her energetic foray into a field for which she must have been secretly preparing all through her days as former chief minister Jayalalithaa's companion.

Because of her vaulting ambition to succeed her mentor, Sasikala wasted no time after Jayalalithaa's death to woo the AIADMK leaders and legislators to her side. Initially, she even managed to cow down O. Panneerselvam, Jayalalithaa's choice as her successor, to resign as chief minister - under pressure, he later said - in order to leave the field open for herself.

Now, even after the judgment went against her, she has struck back by "expelling" Panneerselvam from the party and installing a loyalist, the PWD minister, Edappadi K. Palanisamy, as leader of the legislature party.

But it may all prove to be in vain, for the Supreme Court's adverse verdict casts a shadow not only on her future as a politician, but also on the AIADMK's prospects since it will first have to avoid a split between the factions owing allegiance to Sasikala and to Panneerselvam, respectively, and then embark on an arduous political journey under an as yet untested leader, who will be pitted against the veterans of many battles in a rejuvenated DMK.

As for Sasikala, it is unlikely that she will be able to run the party from jail. However, if her devotion to Jayalalithaa is genuine, she may derive some consolation from the fact that Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader) has been saved by death from the ignominy of being sentenced along with her in the two-decade-old disproportionate assets case.

The AIADMK may have complimented Sasikala for shouldering Jayalalithaa's "burden" yet again. However, the nature of the "burden" is not something of which a party or a politician can be proud.

At the same time, it is also undeniable that if the case had not dragged on for so long, none of the recent contretemps would have happened, which included the display of naked ambition, melodramatic assertions about the "soul" of Jayalalithaa advising Panneerselvam to strive to be the chief minister, and the use of drones by the media to take pictures of the resort where Sasikala's supporters were holed up.

However entertaining the events of the last few days have been for the non-partisan observers, what the Tamil Nadu scene has underlined is a seemingly inherent inability of the Indian democratic system to evolve a routine, non-dramatic transfer of power from one centre of authority to the next.

It is possible that behind this "failure" to ensure a smooth transition is the intense desire of a protagonist like Sasikala to grab power if only somehow to avoid the Damocles sword of the corruption charges falling on her head. She probably presumed that as chief minister, she will have greater protection from the long arm of the law than as an ordinary citizen.

The alacrity with which a fairly large number of MLAs sided with her is also surprising because the possibility of her conviction was always there, especially in view of the Karnataka high court's earlier exoneration of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala in a judgment which was widely criticized. Evidently, the aura which surrounded Jayalalithaa's persona enveloped her protégé as well irrespective of the fact that the latter was a novice in politics and did not have the charisma which made Amma stand out from all the rest.

The MLAs were hoping against hope, therefore, that Sasikala would succeed in the coming days by evoking Jayalalithaa's memory in case the judgment went in her favour. Now, they have no option but to switch their loyalties either to Palanisamy or to Panneerselvam if the latter succeeds in holding on to power as the interim chief minister.

In any event, whoever ascends to the throne, the road ahead will be an uphill one, for the challenge from the DMK will be far more formidable now than what it was in Jayalalithaa's time. The 9.2 per cent increase in the DMK's vote share in the last five years, raising its percentage to 31.6 against the AIADMK's 40.8, means that it will pose a major challenge to the AIADMK in Jayalalithaa's absence.

Among the lessons which can be drawn from the Tamil Nadu events is, first, the prevalence of sleaze in the body politik with its potential to destabilize the government at any time. Secondly, the nation has to be thankful to the judiciary for cracking down on the corrupt, bringing the rich and the powerful down to the level of the common man.

Thirdly, the element of hero worship which made a section of the AIADMK legislators rally round Sasikala even after her conviction is entirely avoidable, for it smacks of a pre-modern, feudal age when personalities were venerated as demi-gods. Such attitudes militate against a democratic system with its independent judiciary and a free press.

—(IPA Service)

News Updated at : Thursday, February 16, 2017
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