The conviction of the AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala in the disproportionate assets case has generated a sense of respite among the people of Tamil Nadu. This, sadly, is not the end of the engulfing political crisis in the state. The selection of Edappadi K Palanisami, to replace Sasikala as a CM candidate, does not change the ground realities.
The emerging reality of politics in Tamil Nadu is grim, especially in the AIADMK. If Palanisami is able to win the floor test in the assembly, chances are that Sasikala and her extended family will control the party and government. The appointment of her nephew TTV Dinakaran as the party’s general secretary points towards this.
It is almost certain that none in the Sasikala faction of the AIADMK can go back to the electorate and seek another term. Their rationale seems to be: A bird in hand is better than two in the bush.
This is also the final parting of power for O Panneerselvam and his illustrious career as a politician with instincts for being at the right place at the right time. He seems to have overestimated the BJP’s manoeuvres and its intimidating outreach through tax nets and surprise raids. However, after her conviction, the pragmatic course for Sasikala’s supporters is to vote for Palanisami and secure their own term for the next four years.
This does not foreclose the possibility of further splits within the AIADMK — Panneerselvam and Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar joining hands to challenge Sasikala indicate this. The party already committed a big mistake by choosing Sasikala, first as the general secretary, and then as the CM.
In walking out of the fold and challenging Sasikala, Panneerselvam has not shown any courage but a sound reflection of the ground realities that indicate the mood of the people. He merely used the public emotions against Sasikala to his advantage and revealed what a fine weathercock he is with shifting loyalties from Janaki MGR to Jayalalithaa, from Jayalalithaa to Sasikala, and now encashing the memory of Jayalalithaa.
There is virtually no difference between Sasikala and Panneerselvam in terms of their relevance, service, commitment to the AIADMK and the state — both have thrived on reflected glory and have benefitted at the cost of others. In a way, they reflect the decay and death of politics.
What we’ve now started witnessing in the political dramas of factional loyalties and different camps in the AIADMK is the beginning of the party’s end. The DMK and the BJP are waiting on the sidelines watching the party unravel.
Never in AIADMK’s history have the people been so disillusioned with the party. In the name of statecraft, the arteries of politics have been shut down to facilitate Sasikala’s “elevation” in politics. The people also recognise and understand that Panneerselvam is no more than a false hero and the hallo would vanish with the volte-face to the BJP after the vote in state legislature.
In the face of Sasikala’s conviction and with the emergence of Palanisami, the ground realities and the nature of politics remain unaltered. A new mask has been introduced, but the dance and drama of Tamil Nadu politics will follow the same old script.
Ramu Manivannan is professor, Department of politics & public administration, University of Madras
The views expressed are personal