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A Year Without Jayalalithaa Proves Her Total Sway

By Sushil Kutty

It is been a year since Jayalalithaa passed away and the AIADMK splintered. Her aide Sasikala in in jail and O Panneerselvam, her choice to fill in as chief minister the two times she went to jail, got the upper hand, though he could not take it to the logical conclusion as that honour went E Palaniswami’s way.

Sasikala is the big loser. She sought to take over the party as well as the government but failed on both counts. But her absence has not helped AIADMK to coalesce. The divisions and individual ambitions remain.

Jayalalithaa dominated the AIADMK like no one before or after her. None of her successors could. O Panneerselvam and E Palaniswami are not of Jaya’s stature. Years of paying obeisance and lying prostate before the demigod have left a mark on them. They cannot command respect much less demand it.

The political vacuum left by the demise of Jayalalithaa remains. Everybody wants to fill the vacant space but nobody knows just how. Maybe the RK Nagar by-election will throw up some guesses along with surprises. Just that, guesses. Nothing like a firm answer.

Winning the RK Nagar – Jaya’s assembly constituency – seat has, therefore, become an imperative for both the EPS-OPS and TTV Dinakaran camps. In the run-up to the by-election both splinters are staking claim over the Jaya legacy. It appears like a dead Jaya has acquired more political clout than a living Jaya did.

Meanwhile, the series of I-T raids have put the EPS-OPS camp in the perception dock. The belief that the party is “tainted” cannot be washed or wished away. With Sasikala safe behind bars, the onus is on the EPS-OPS camp to come clean and repair the damage.

The RK Nagar by-election will be held on December 21. The nomination process is on. Every contender, from Jaya’s niece Deepa Jayakumar to actor Vishal, has invoked Jayalalithaa’s name. Both Deepa and Vishal filed their nomination papers but Deepa’s were consigned to the dustbin and Vishal had to squat to be heard.

Deepa is perhaps the only tragic figure in the ensemble. She was shunned by Jayalalithaa and only the death of the aunt drew her to Poes Garden. She soon found that she was completely at sea. Jaya’s coterie, even without Jaya around, was too entrenched to dislodge. An attempt to grab the keys to Poes Garden was foiled. It is unlikely that Deepa Jayakumar will ever make it in politics.

Actor Vishal squatted on the road for a while before he claimed to have got the go-ahead from the Election Commission. There were, however, conflicting reports on whether his nomination papers were rejected or accepted. If the second, he will be contesting as an independent.

The BJP continues to be in political wilderness despite Amit Shah and Narendra Modi’s efforts to make a difference. The absence of a strong leader at the state-level is what the BJP lacks. But not to be left completely out, the “party of north India” has thrown whatever little might it has in Tamil Nadu behind the ruling AIADMK camp, which, as it turns out, is quite willing to be wooed. The courtship will continue only if the AIADMK wins the RK Nagar seat. If it doesn’t all bets are off.

Once formidable rival, the DMK has been rather quite. With wily Karunanidhi more or less out of circulation despite the wheel chair, the party has not been able make a splash, the kind which catapulted Karunanidhi to power, not once but twice. Son Stalin has not been able to take advantage of the split in AIADMK and there is no news of elder brother Alagiri at all. Is he alive?

‘Big Boss’ Kamal Hassan, after making all the right noises and singing praise for Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s brand of politics, has, it seems, gone underground. Neither he nor Rajani Kanth has much to say about the RK Nagar by-election, who they support or who they don’t. Both actors, it appears, have learned that in politics, sometimes it helps to keep mum and not cry Amma!

All in all, a pot-pourie. The Congress Party, which is missing action, is busy anointing a Yuvraj King and the only Congress Tamilian with a name recognition, Mani Shankar Aiyer, is too caught in party affairs to spare a thought for RK Nagar and the by-election there. The no-election at 24 Akbar Road cannot be missed, come what may. So Aiyer is firing from all cylinders to curry favour with the Yuvraj with the help of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb, two long dead Mughals. (IPA Service)

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