It’s comedy of errors in Tamil Nadu

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It’s comedy of errors in Tamil Nadu

The hospitalisation and demise of Jayalalithaa has become part of a folklore in Tamil Nadu. Amid Ministers’ claims and counter claims, the State Government has instituted a commission of enquiry

The ideal term to describe the state of political affairs in Tamil Nadu, a State in turmoil, is comedy of errors.

It all began on September 22, 2016 when J Jayalalithaa, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the supreme leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), was admitted to a corporate hospital in Chennai due to “dehydration and fever”, as per the medical bulletin issued by the hospital management the next day.

Since then, the entrance to the hospital was converted into the branch of the State Secretariat. Mnisters and senior officials started camping  at the main gate in anticipation of some kind of announcement either by the hospital authorities or the persons who were entrusted with the responsibility of looking after Amma, as Jayalalithaa was known.

The  hospitalisation and demise of Jayalalithaa has become part of a folklore in Tamil Nadu. One pertinent point to be remembered about the hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa was the reported statement by Pratap C Reddy, proprietor, Apollo Hospitals. “Jayalalithaa is perfectly all right. She is leading a normal life in the hospital. It is for her to decide when to get discharged and go home,” Reddy was quoted as saying in many

newspapers and TV channels.

But it was not Jayalalithaa who decided her discharge from the hospital and, thereby, hangs tonnes and tonnes of mysteries. What is of significance right now is that some of the insouciant comments made by the Ministers of her Cabinet, who continue to serve the State under the guidance of Edappadi K  Palaniswami, the third Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in the last one year.

Dindigul C Sreenivasan, the Minister for Forests, while addressing a meeting at Madurai recently, declared that not even a single Minister was allowed to see Jayalalithaa or interact with her throughout her stay in the hospital. “We were telling lies to the public that we saw Amma eating idli, sambar and having steaming coffee. We were forced to parrot these words by none other than VK Sasikala and her family members who were the only people who had access to Jayalalithaa. I seek your pardon for telling lies. It is out of fear that we had to tell lies to you,” Sreenivasan, who was close to the Sasikala clan till recently, disclosed in a public meeting.

Within the next two days, Sellur K Raju, Minister for Cooperation, contradicted what was told by Sreenivasan. “We all saw and interacted with Amma while she was in the hospital. It is not fair to claim now that we were not allowed to meet Amma. We all met her during her hospitalisation,” said Raju, who is known more for his claim that evaporation of Cauvery waters could be prevented with covering the river using thermocool.

Nilofer Kafeel, Minister for Labour, joined the fray with her startling disclosures. “I saw Amma while she was in the hospital. I was standing at one end of the corridor while Amma was being shifted from one room to another,” said Kafeel, who was magnanimous enough to accept that she did not converse with Amma.

Within one hour, RT Udhayakumar, Minister for Information Technology, told media persons that no importance be given to the statements made by the Ministers. “These are all personal views and opinions of the Ministers. You need not give any importance to these statements,” said Udhayakuar, who was the first Minister in the Panneerselvam Cabinet to demand that Sasikala should become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, which led to the ouster of Panneerselvam as Chief Minister.

When Jayalalithaa was alive, no Ministers would dare to open their mouth to the journalists.

The Tamil Nadu Government has instituted a commission of enquiry, headed by a retired judge of the Madras High Court to probe the factors behind the hospitalisation and subsequent demise of the AIADMK supremo.

The year 2017 is significant for  the AIADMK as well as the people of Tamil Nadu. This is the centenary year of AIADMK founder and former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, fondly addressed as MGR and Makkal Thilakam (star of the people) by the party cadre. It was in 1977 when MGR became the Chief Minister for the first time, which makes the year the 40th anniversary of his ascension to power. Jayalalithaa had asked the AIADMK cadre to work tirelessly to ensure the success of the party in the 2016 Assembly election so that there would be an AIADMK Government in Tamil Nadu during the centenary year of MGR. Well, there is an AIADMK Government in the State with uncertainty written large over its stability.

The centenary year of the founder sees the AIADMK cadre fighting it out in the open with claims of sleeper cells in each other’s factions. The factions are also waging a legal battle for the retrieval of the party emblem, the famous two leaves symbol immortalised by late MGR. It is not known whether the AIADMK would survive as a united political entity as there are talks of mutually assured destruction, a famous term coined during the Cold War of 1950s to 1980s between the then Soviet Union and the US. It meant one country would destroy certain pre-destined parts of the rival, while the latter too would destroy some of the sensitive regions of the former with each side agreeing to leave untouched their respective top political leadership!

It may be a strange coincidence that Deepa Madhavan Patrick, the niece of Jayalalithaa, named her faction as MAD Party. Though the abbreviation stands for MGR Amma Deepa Party, the present political scenario in AIADMK points to a mutually assured destruction in the fight between the EPS-OPS faction and  the Sasikala-Dinakaran faction.

While the AIADMK factions are fighting each other to the finish,  a desperate Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is out to make a giant kill. The Karunanidhi clan has been out of power since 2011 in Tamil Nadu and in the Centre since 2013.

Hence, the DMK is trying all tricks in its sleeve to hasten the process of disintegration of the AIADMK. Sasikala, Dinakaran and the EPS-OPS camps are allegedly playing into the hands of the M Karunanidhi clan with each side speaking in different voices confusing the AIADMK cadre.

(The writer is Chennai-based special correspondent, The Pioneer)

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