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In a state where the Dravidian rational credo says the gods must be crazy, it is predicted that the Maker will shower blessings on a believer like AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa. Sudha G Tilak writes.

india Updated: May 13, 2011 13:55 IST
Sudha G Tilak

In a state where the Dravidian rational credo says the gods must be crazy, it is predicted that the Maker will shower blessings on a believer like AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa.

Or so we will know by tomorrow when the results of the 14th Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 234 constituencies polled by 3.66 crore electors are announced.

The Tamil Nadu assembly verdict should follow a familiar pattern. When political masters indulge in bribery and nepotism and the leading families endorse and facilitate corruption, the people of Tamil Nadu have always expressed their censure through votes.

And so Jayalalithaa emerged from a political hibernation from the mists of Kodanadu Hills to the plains this summer to witness the crumbling of the DMK. Apart from perfunctory remarks about Karunanidhi’s family’s corruption charges, her campaign has been lacklustre.

With a climate of public revulsion to Karunanidhi’s corrupt family members, Jayalalithaa had to merely fan the flames of opposition against the DMK or use star campaigners and new ploys to highlight the repulsive nature of the DMK’s nepotism.

Jayalalithaa has not made use of the groundswell of resentment against the Karunanidhi family that would have helped give her a larger lead for her party in the zero sum game of Tamil politics.

With pollsters and pundits predicting her comeback, she simply offered one post-election bite to the cameras: “We will see a landslide victory and sweeping victory for us. We are confident that we will get a clear majority to rule this state.”

Jayalalithaa has been used to enjoying elections on sympathy or goodwill since her mentor MG Ramachandran’s death in 1987. The AIADMK had publicly humiliated Jayalalithaa and propped up MGR’s widow Janaki as chief minister.

That action was quickly rejected by the people, paving the way for Jayalalithaa’s first tenure as CM in 1991, riding as she did on a sympathy wave under the shadow of MGR’s death.

She was rejected by the Tamil voters following the corruption charges levelled against her during her tenure, especially against the caste-based battles that erupted from the ‘foster family’ of her long-time companion N Sasikala. Jayalalithaa suffered a crushing defeat and arrest in the subsequent DMK regime.

In 2001, she again gained the sympathy of the electorate after displaying her agony at being punished by the DMK government with her arrest and with the courts disqualifying her from contesting elections since the charges against her held. She had her throne warmed by a party loyal O Paneerselvam, and in a landmark judgement had the charges against her dropped.

Her rout in the 2007 elections was seen more as an electorate tiring of her political caprices and petulance.

Tamil Nadu remains a state where a certain degree of progress has been achieved in social welfare schemes since the early days of AIADMK rule under MGR. The DMK government has enjoyed the distinction of offering good governance, a fact endorsed by many polls before.

The success of the public distribution system, sops including medical insurance, colour TVs, free rice and the reach of services to rural interiors have been a bonus for the DMK. Jayalalithaa’s tenure had also much to showcase in terms of attracting investment to the state.

However, it is to be seen whether the institutionalised corruption of the Karunanidhi family, compounded by the 2G scam, have overshadowed the good work done by the DMK government.

As for Jayalalithaa playing the role of opposition leader, she hardly did so this election. She merely stands to benefit from the voter’s wrath against her opponents — if that wrath is, at all, palpable.

(Sudha G Tilak is a Delhi-based writer on south Indian politics and culture. The views expressed by the author are personal.)