Tamil Nadu assembly ruckus not new, Jayalalithaa loyalists were beaten after MGR’s death | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Tamil Nadu assembly ruckus not new, Jayalalithaa loyalists were beaten after MGR’s death

Tamil Nadu legislators climbed on tables, broke chairs and rushed towards the speaker on Saturday afternoon as a tense trust voice descended into pandemonium.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2017 15:35 IST
Dhrubo Jyoti
Members of the AIADMK party display portraits of VK Sasikala and former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa, in Chennai on February 16.
Members of the AIADMK party display portraits of VK Sasikala and former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa, in Chennai on February 16.(AFP)

Tamil Nadu legislators climbed on tables, broke chairs and rushed towards the speaker on Saturday afternoon as a tense trust voice descended into pandemonium. (LIVE UPDATES)

But such scenes of violence aren’t without precedent in the state, where chaos has ruled every time a sitting chief minister has died in office.

In fact, the last trust vote in the state three decades ago saw similar vandalism. That vote, in 1988, also had two main characters in common with today.

One, former chief minister J Jayalalithaa who was the leader of a rebel AIADMK faction opposing her mentor MG Ramachandran’s wife Janaki, who was the then CM. Jayalalithaa’s death in December precipitated the current political crisis.

The other was PH Pandian, then the assembly speaker whose controversial decisions were seen to be unfairly favouring Janaki. Pandian is now a senior leader in the rebel O Panneerselvam’s camp.

After MG Ramachandran’s death in 1987, the party elevated his widow Janaki to the CM’s chair but was bitterly opposed by Jayalalithaa, who was also furious after her humiliation at his funeral.

Janaki had been sworn in as CM on January 7, 1988, with the support of 97 MLAs but had to defend her government in a floor test on the 28th.

On that day, all hell broke loose in the assembly as several Congress and pro-Jayalalithaa MLAs loudly protested Pandian’s decisions and accused the speaker of flouting the rules.

What happened next was unprecedented. Jayalalithaa’s biographer Vaasanthi writes, “Suddenly some goondas entered the house and started beating up pro-Jayalalithaa and Congress MLAs…for the first time in the history of Tamil Nadu assembly, police entered the legislative house and lathicharged MLAs.”

In the midst of the fracas, the Speaker announced Janaki had won the vote. Minutes later on Jayalalithaa’s instructions, her faction rushed to the governor to complain.

“Jayalalithaa issued a statement saying democracy had been murdered and appealed to the governor to dismiss Janaki’s ministry immediately,” Vaasanthi wrote. The governor recommended President’s Rule and days later, Janaki’s government was dismissed.

This was a turning point in Jayalalithaa’s career. In the subsequent elections, Janaki’s faction was decimated and won just 2 seats.

Janaki herself suffered a humiliating loss. Jayalalithaa’s camp won 27 and she became the leader of the opposition. The two camps merged soon after and Janaki quit politics. Two years later, Jayalalithaa was sworn in as chief minister.

Whether Saturday’s trust vote can swing fortunes for either chief minister Palaniswami or rebel leader Panneerselvam is yet to be seen. But the violence during the floor test makes one thing clear: That when it comes to politics, history is the best guide.