A return to sanity

A return to sanity

By THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN | 26 November, 2017

The Election Commission of India need not have waited for so many months before finally reaching the obvious conclusion that the faction represented by Chief Minister E. Palaniswamy and former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam was the actual AIADMK, and not the small group that remained loyal to Sasikala Natarajan. There are credible reports that the Sasikala faction was in contact with both the Congress and the DMK, and was working to ensure that the Tamil Nadu government fell and fresh elections got declared, in which it expected to split the AIADMK vote sufficiently to enable the Congress-DMK alliance to come to power, with the backing of the Sasikala faction. The bureaucracy in India is known throughout the globe for its procrastinating ways, and this quality was revealed in full and unpleasant display during the months of deliberation by the Election Commission, during which the administration of the state was at risk of being thrown into limbo. Had J. Jayalalithaa intended to bring Sasikala into politics from her role as constant companion, the deceased leader would have given her a party position, just as Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran anointed Jayalalithaa as the AIADMK “Propaganda Secretary”, a task that she fulfilled with efficiency and grace. It was as clear that MGR was grooming Jayalalithaa for a political career, as it was obvious that Jayalalithaa preferred Sasikala to remain her constant companion, rather than as her successor in politics. Of course, “Sasi” had the run of Poes Garden, the private residence of the actress-turned-politician, who dominated politics in Tamil Nadu for close to two decades, and was on the cusp of high office at the Central level before Sasikala’s relatives ensured her downfall through clumsy manouevering for maximum advantage from any party that was in a position to offer goodies to a family that moved from relative poverty to stupendous wealth through making use of the control that Sasikala Natarajan had over the Jayalalithaa government. Had Sasikala the good sense to have remained behind the scenes, rather than herself seek to assume the leadership of the state administration, she may still have remained the most powerful individual in Tamil Nadu. However, her desire for the Chief Ministership poisoned relations with Chief Minister Palaniswamy, who till that time was her loyalist. Earlier, the intemperate manner in which a member of the Mannargudi clan treated then Chief Minister Panneerselvam was instrumental in that mild-mannered individual openly challenging her dominance over the party and emerging as a leader in his own right as a consequence. 

While it has taken the Election Commission months, instead of minutes, to reach the obvious conclusion that the EPS-OPS combination was the correct owner of the “two leaves” symbol, hopefully, it will not take as long for Chief Minister Palaniswamy to set right a sense of drift that had been affecting his administration. The people of Tamil Nadu, among the most progressive states in India, deserve stable and good governance. Corruption has been the poison that weakened the hold of the AIADMK over the voters, and the Chief Minister needs to resist lures and temptations. Rather, he should take strong steps against errant officers, and go ahead with steps to ensure greater transparency, for example, by throwing open to public gaze more processes of government and by live streaming the consultations taken before decisions of consequence get taken. The final months of Jayalalithaa need to be investigated in detail, in view of allegations that she was deliberately kept from necessary treatment and was in a state of terminal neglect when finally admitted to the hospital where she passed away. Secrecy protects the corrupt far more times than it does the security of the state, hence the hearings on the Jayalalithaa final illness investigation should be conducted in public. The AIADMK government should work for good relations with the Central government, as this would assist in the recovery of the state from the ills that have been caused by political uncertainty. In Chennai, the atmosphere for long has been polluted by stories that the Central government was going to dissolve the state Assembly and declare President’s Rule. This was, of course, a course of action devoutly wished for by the Congress, the DMK and the Sasikala faction. However, unless the Palaniswamy government loses its majority, such a course is wholly improbable. Enough time has been wasted on intrigues and shenanigans. It is time for work, and Chief Minister Palaniswamy is on test to determine whether he has the will and the wisdom to be a worthy successor of J. Jayalalithaa.

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