Sasikala as CM might be good for AIADMK, but not necessarily for Tamil Nadu | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Sasikala as CM might be good for AIADMK, but not necessarily for Tamil Nadu

The way ahead for VK Sasikala could be thorny. While she enjoys the support of the MLAs, many reports suggest that the cadre are not on her side. There have been protests against her in some places, especially from RK Nagar, the assembly constituency Jayalalithaa represented

editorials Updated: Feb 14, 2017 07:14 IST
On Sunday, VK Sasikala was elected by the AIADMK as the next CM of Tamil Nadu.
On Sunday, VK Sasikala was elected by the AIADMK as the next CM of Tamil Nadu.

The political script unfolding in Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK and government could easily leave even the most prolific of scriptwriters in Kollywood, the Tamil film industry, in the dust. An immensely popular leader passes away and the uncertainty is quickly put to rest when her political lieutenant and arch loyalist swears in. However, he soon steps aside for an aide — and in the process democracy is left poorer, because an elected leader has stepped down to give the seat of power in a state to someone whose claim to fame is that she was a close aide of the former CM.

On Sunday, O Panneerselvam resigned for the third time in his career as chief minister of Tamil Nadu after a party legislature meeting chose VK Sasikala, the recently-elected party general secretary, as legislative leader and next CM. Some see this as history repeating, because when the AIADMK founder and then CM MG Ramachandran passed away it was J Jayalalithaa who inherited his mantle beating back a challenge from his wife Janaki who was CM for 23 days. With Ms Sasikala all set to take over, the tradition continues.

Read | Sasikala Natarajan: Jayalalithaa’s close aide, the power behind the throne

This might be good for the party, but not necessarily for the state.

The AIADMK MLAs will now have one leader to rally behind and the problem of dual power centres (of the chief minister and general secretary being two different people) has been resolved. Ms Sasikala, also called Chinnamma, will assume office with little political exposure. Given that it comes at a time when the state is facing many challenges — a drought in many districts, a looming economic crisis, and the oil spill in Ennore — political instability is the last thing Tamil Nadu needs.

Read | Setback for AIADMK chief Sasikala as 20-year-old case returns to haunt her

On the face of it, it would seem that Ms Sasikala was getting uneasy with Mr Panneerselvam, popularly called OPS, continuing in the post of the CM. So far, he has been an accessible leader. His personal outreach during Cyclone Vardah, his appeal to the Centre to revoke the ban on Jallikattu, and his “common man” persona has increased his image among the cadre.

Also, the way ahead for Ms Sasikala could be thorny. While she enjoys the support of the MLAs, many reports suggest that the cadre are not on her side. There have been protests against her in some places, especially from RK Nagar, the assembly constituency Jayalalithaa represented. Then, there are court cases against Ms Sasikala, which hangs like a political sword of Damocles over her head.

Read | VK Sasikala will be new Tamil Nadu chief minister

Interestingly, OPS stepped aside on a day when Tamil Nadu was celebrating Jallikattu in many places, including at the prestigious venue of Avaniyapuram in Madurai. The Jallikattu protests, which rocked the state, were a fight by the people for traditions to be restored. Sunday’s developments show that tradition, even in politics, is very much ingrained in the psyche of a vast number of people in the state.