When the J Jayalalithaa juggernaut rolled into the Capital this week, the political ground literally shook with expectations. The decimated Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) will be shown the door and a weightier All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) will be given the keys to the house, said political pundits.
The mercurial AIADMK supremo may indeed have come to signal her willingness to join the UPA coalition, she dropped several hints to that effect. But astute politician that she is meant to be, she seemed to have lost her deft touch, making several demands that could, at best be termed unrealistic and at worst, flaky.
There may have been some controversy over the election of home minister P Chidambaram from Sivaganga and a petition on this filed by one of her own partymen is pending in the courts. But for Ms Jayalalithaa to ask for him to be dropped from the Cabinet is unfeasible at this juncture.
Then even as she suggested that she would play ball if asked very nicely, she demanded the dropping of textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran from the government on the grounds that he was involved in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
Conversant as she is with the law, surely she could not have been unaware of the fact that neither of these demands make much sense unless charges against the gentlemen concerned are proved in a court of law. And she also cannot have failed to notice that despite the fact that she is indeed the giant killer of Tamil Nadu today, the UPA did not go very much beyond laying out the red carpet for her.
A photo-op with the PM, a non-tea party with the Congress president and a stilted press conference was all she really got. In real terms, the UPA is in no danger at all and in no need of new allies at the moment, despite the taint on the DMK.
But realpolitik would dictate that had Ms Jayalalithaa been serious about displacing her arch rival from the coalition, she would have displayed a slightly more soothing touch in her opening gambit.
To add a faintly comical touch to the proceedings, she asked the Centre to foot the bill for the laptops she had promised to people as part of the assembly election sops. Had we not known better, we might have thought that she has lost touch with reality after a considerable period of time in the wilderness.
The fact that the UPA is not camping at her doorstep could be because she has in the past proved a notoriously fickle ally. True she holds all the aces today as far as numbers from Tamil Nadu are concerned. But she should play them well instead of revealing her hand in the very first move.
We could be forgiven for thinking that she is more intent on settling political scores than on gaining a foothold in the Centre. And we thought she might have turned over a new leaf with this new lease of life, or two leaves which is her party’s once-frozen symbol.