Given the socio-political dynamics of Tamil Nadu, it is hard to dismiss the timing of the two events as coincidence. The day when strapping young men grappled with bulls near Madurai, officially proclaiming the recently regained legitimacy for Jallikattu, the political party that facilitated the resolution of the dispute over the traditional sport chose VK Sasikala as the new chief minister.
Even if the unanimous decision of AIADMK legislators was legitimate, it opened a debate in the media, particularly in the social networking sites, landing Sasikala in a situation that former CMs had found themselves in whenever they assumed office.
A clever maneuver, otherwise, to keep the party together and also enable it to honour the electoral mandate to rule the state till 2021, was ridiculed with comments like a confidante of the late CM is not competent to become CM, ignoring the fact that the MLAs, who elected J Jayalalithaa as CM in May, 2016, has now chosen Sasikala in the most legitimate fashion.
When a leader passes away without nominating a successor, it is within the powers of the party’s office bearers and its elected representatives to choose the next leader. And when the party enjoys the people’s mandate, how can anyone say that Sasikala does not have the “acceptance of people”? After all, she was very much part of Jayalalithaa’s life and political career: In fact since the 1980s, and the people were very much aware of it when they voted for the AIADMK.
Yet the elitist media harangues against her as it did to every CM , starting from CN Annadurai to Jayalalithaa. The mainstream media ran them ---- Annadurai and his successor M Karunanidhi -- down primarily because they came from a movement that changed the socio-political history of the state.
When the AIADMK split, soon after the death of MG Ramachandran, into two groups, one led by MGR’s widow VN Janaki and the other by Jayalalithaa, even the popular journalist Cho Ramasway supported Janaki, leave alone many other publications that wrote disparagingly of Jayalalithaa, who surmounted all the Opposition and emerged as the inheritor of MGR’s legacy.
The challenge now before Sasikala is to prove that she indeed is the inheritor of that legacy. The elitist media and the intelligentsia, which once trained their guns against the DMK and recently, for over a decade, against Jallikattu, is targeting Sasikala for the same reasons.
So it is for Sasikala to prove her mettle by providing a people-friendly government. Unlike the Jallikattu supporters who fought valiantly for over a decade and showcase their triumph at Avaniapuram, Sasikala has just four years and three months to prove proclaim the legitimacy by leading MGR’s party to victory in 2021.
G Babu Jayakumar is a Chennai-based senior journalist
The views expressed are personal