Will the flash floods fed by Chennai’s heaviest rainfall in over 100 years prove to be Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s Waterloo?
Visuals of angry people protesting against the government’s alleged “indifference and apathy” in providing relief and rescuing marooned people beamed by Tamil news channels are bound to have a demonstrative effect on people across the southern state.
The government’s flood and crisis management effort is expected to be a key issue in the assembly election to be held before May 2016.
Jayalalithaa’s traditional rival the DMK is already using the people’s anger stemming from their impatience about the delay in normalcy returning and moulding it into a potent weapon along with attempts to bring in smaller parties on a single platform to take on the till-now seemingly invincible AIADMK supremo.
DMK treasurer and its most-likely chief ministerial pick MK Stalin had in a mass-contact programme ridiculed Jayalalithaa’s style of functioning and lambasted the unavailability of any AIADMK leader or government officer to solve the people’s problems.
“During the DMK rule, we were available, meeting people and addressing their problems,” Stalin had said. “But today, leave alone Jayalalithaa, you cannot even meet the district or taluka level AIADMK man or woman. And about officials, the less said the better.”
Stalin was not wrong, as there was a spate of angry protests in parts of Chennai over the alleged neglect of flood victims.
”None of the councilors or block leaders of AIADMK or any government official bothered to visit us and see our trouble,” said an irate S Ganesan, a resident of a government housing colony in Kotturpuram.
Political analyst Prof Ramu Manivannan concurs that people’s anger could be fresh in their memories in the run-up to the elections and any slip-ups in relief and rehabilitation could prove costly for Jayalalithaa, who otherwise has had a good run.
“Although Jayalalithaa cannot be held guilty for all that has happened now, people’s impatience can turn into anger,” said the Madras University Professor. “If Jayalalithaa manages to pull out all stops and does a good job, with the help of a friendly central government, then it would be a different story
In 1967, the Minjur Bhaktavatsalam government was voted out in polls after a severe drought hit Tamil Nadu.