“Makkalaal Naan, Makkalukaagave Naan”
“I am by the people, I am always for the people”
Former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa never missed making this statement in any of her public speeches. All through her political career, Jayalalithaa differentiated her All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam from her archrival Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam by pointing to one crucial factor: the DMK
was a dynastic party dominated by its president M Karunanidhi’s family. She, on the other hand, had no family and always worked with the interest of the people in mind. Even an ordinary member in the party could aspire to become a minister, something which was impossible in the DMK.
However, directly contradicting their former supreme leader’s stand, the AIADMK
took a definitive turn towards dynastic politics
on Tuesday evening, just hours after its general secretary VK Sasikala
was convicted by the Supreme Court
in an illegal wealth case.
As the battle to get the support of majority legislators continued between factions led by O Panneerselvam
and Sasikala, Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar, who had been threatening to take the plunge into electoral politics, threw her weight behind Panneerselvam. The old saying that an enemy’s enemy is a friend came true in Deepa Jayakumar’s entry into Panneerselvam’s team.
On Wednesday morning, it was Sasikala’s turn to strengthen the hands of her family in the party. In a surprise announcement on AIADMK’s mouth piece, Dr Namadhu MGR, it was declared that TTV Dinakaran
and S Venkatesh, her nephews expelled from the party by Jayalalithaa in 2011, were being readmitted. They had apparently tendered an unconditional apology for their past mistakes. An hour later, it was announced that Dinakaran was appointed as deputy general secretary, ensuring that even as Sasikala
spends the next four years in prison, she will remote control the party from her cell.
Deepa Jayakumar’s entry
Deepa Jayakumar’s entry into Panneerselvam’s team was an expected one. When he revolted against Sasikala
on February 7, two days after resigning as chief minister, Panneerselvam said he would be happy to have Jayalalithaa’s niece in the party and would give her the respect that she deserved.
Jayakumar, on the other hand, had been very critical of Sasikala
and sympathetic to Panneerselvam, even lauding him for taking a decision that reflected the people’s views. Since Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5 and Sasiakala’s elevation in the AIADMK
in January, there has been a section of cadres exhorting Jayakumar to enter politics.
Huge banners carrying her pictures came up across Tamil Nadu, giving a perception that she was gaining public sympathy for her stand against Sasikala, who was seen as the usurper of Jayalalithaa’s legacy.
However, the stand off between Panneerselvam and Sasikala
and the battle for the chief minister’s chair pushed Jayakumar to the background. Media attention fizzled out quickly as the focus shifted on Raj Bhavan.
This was perhaps a reason why Jayakumar, who had earlier stated that she would announce her political plans on the birth anniversary of her aunt on February 24, decided to join Panneerselvam faction on Tuesday. It also looked like a calculated move where she had waited for the verdict in the Supreme Court
to make a decision.
However, the way Panneerselvam drafted her into his faction has raised eyebrows. Unlike how he received other senior leaders like C Ponnaiyan and E Madhusudhanan at his residence, Panneerselvam chose to go all the way to Jayalalithaa’s memorial and wait for Jayakumar to arrive. His body language reminded people of the days when he would humbly stand behind Jayalalithaa at public meetings.
These images did not go down well with some of his supporters. R Saravanan, a ward member of AIADMK’s T Nagar branch in Chennai, said he was disappointed at the development. “We already have public support. Why should he bring Deepa now?” he wondered.
Outside Panneerselvam’s residence on Greenways Road, other supporters such as Elavarasi felt Deepa Jayakumar’s entry could lead to a split in the party in the future. “But at the moment, the idea is to oppose Sasikala.
So this is good,” she said.
Even leaders were not too happy. A former legislator hoped that Panneerselvam would not give too much importance to Jayakumar once he forms a stable government. “She has no locus standi in the AIADMK.
Jayalalithaa never entertained her,” he added.
On the other side, Sasikala
decided to formally induct her family members – Dinakaran and Venkatesh – into the AIADMK.
This has come a day after she was convicted by the Supreme Court, making it certain that she would spend the next four years in prison.
Dinakaran’s elevation as deputy general secretary, the second-most powerful position in the AIADMK, showed Sasikala’s eagerness to remote control the party from the prison. Dinakaran is Sasikala’s sister’s son. His brother Sudhakaran was convicted along with his aunt on Tuesday.
That Dinakaran was her primary strategist was well known. But given the family’s reputation of being corrupt, he was kept out from formal positions even after Jayalalithaa’s death. But he came back to public limelight when he accompanied Sasikala
to meet Governor Vidyasagar Rao last week.
There was also a larger calculation involved in elevating Dinakaran. On Tuesday, the AIADMK’s legislative party elected Edappadi K Palanisamy as its leader. He immediately staked claim to form the government.
But Palanisamy is no lightweight. A veteran in the party, he belongs to the Gounder community, a powerful group in the AIADMK
with maximum number of legislators. Sasikala, on the other hand, is a Thevar, a competing group that has controlled AIADMK
R Manivannan, a professor of politics
at the University of Madras, said Dinakaran’s appointment was to ensure that a powerful Palanisamy does not make any trouble and try to capture the party in Sasikala’s absence.
By inducting family members, both sides have hurt themselves further in the eyes of the public, Manivannan said. Recollecting the internal turmoil after the death of AIADMK
founder MG Ramachandran in 1987, he pointed out that despite being MGR’s wife, the people did not support VN Janaki, who was routed in the 1989 elections.
“With multiple power centres, I don’t see the AIADMK
surviving as a unit for too long,” he added.
In arrangement with Scroll.in