After Jayalalithaa’s death, there has been little governance in Tamil Nadu | analysis | Hindustan Times
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After Jayalalithaa’s death, there has been little governance in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu waits for an honest and people-oriented government with a clear majority, elected on the basis of programmes and policies explained in a manifesto, and a responsible opposition

analysis Updated: Jun 15, 2018 21:39 IST
E Palaniswamy
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami with his deputy chief minister O Paneerselvam and others during the AIADMK’s day-long fast on the Cauvery issue in Chennai(PTI)

In delivering a split verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the disqualification of 18 dissident AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran, the Madras High Court has given reprieve to the government led by AIADMK’s E Palaniswamy.

He must feel relieved but until a third judge is named and gives a verdict that will amount to a 2:1 order , the people of Tamil Nadu remain without a government in the full and true sense of the term. They are the victims of a political culture that valorises hero-worship, cults and deification.

J Jayalalithaa’s MLAs – 117 of them in the Tamil Nadu Assembly House of 234 – had been trained and conditioned to treat her as precisely that ,a deity. With her gone, in the normal course, ‘her’ MLAs had but to choose another leader and demonstrate their undiluted trust in that person for the governor of the day to swear him or her, into office. But when were they helped, allowed, to do things in the ‘normal course’ ?

Sasikala Natarajan, whose proximity to the late leader was as clear as the nature of that proximity was un-explained had, not so long ago, been thrown out by Jayalalithaa from the house which she shared with her, but then rehabilitated. Emerging from the funeral as the principal claimant to the crown, she managed to attract and repel MLAs. The emergence of TTV Dhinakaran, Sasikala kin and loyalist, through a dramatic by-election victory from Jayalalithaa’s R K Nagar seat in Chennai as an independent candidate, shows what needed no proof : The people of Tamil Nadu voted Amma into office; her MLAs came in her wake. Wherever an AIADMK candidate was fielded, they were proxies for Amma. Not they but Amma was the candidate.

The state has had for the last one year a government with a residual legitimacy but without a voltage of its own. Its government has been whirring even as a ceiling fan does, for a while, after it has been switched off.

The High Court, one hopes, will end the suspense on the petitions soon by either upholding the disqualification or setting it aside. But either way, for the people of Tamil Nadu, the suspense and the misfortune of not having an emphatically mandated government, is likely to continue. Thanks to the manipulations of current-day politics, the 18 members, if not disqualified, may not vote as a solid group against the government, defeating it. And if disqualified, the resultant by-elections may garble the picture even more.

The picture will become clear only in another election, held, hopefully, very soon.

Tamil Nadu faces serious problems. One might call them crises. A study by Athreya Mukundan in Swarajya (October, 2017) describes them as: 1. Its mounting debt, without a corresponding acceleration of productive economic activity. 2. The sluggishness of its industrial growth with investment falling below its own earlier example. 3. Its education parameters, a ‘TN pride’ since the days of Kamaraj , slipping. To quote Mukundan in: “When we consider arithmetic abilities, (in) Tamil Nadu… almost 79 per cent of Class V kids (are) not able to solve a simple division problem.”

Most serious is the steep plummeting of its ground water reserves and the crisis in its agriculture which made Tamil Nadu farmers stage a dramatic protest in Delhi, drawing international attention.

What has come to be known as the ‘guthka scam’ obliged the Madras High Court to order a CBI enquiry into it.

Tamil Nadu waits for an honest and people-oriented government with a clear majority, elected on the basis of programmes and policies explained in a manifesto, and a responsible opposition. It has had an efficient and more or less neutral bureaucracy, maintaining a tradition of honest administration not manipulated by ego-driven ministers. But, in recent years, an insatiable greed for money and supremacy, the two feeding each other, have made a mockery of that tradition.

“Eppo varuvaro ?” – When will He come ? – is the title of a popular Tamil song by Gopalakrishna Bharati. It sums up the prevailing sentiment of the average man and woman in the state. ‘He’ is not going to find it easy to ‘enthan kalitheera’ – solve his and her problems but if solving problems and not self-glorification is the ideal, then ‘he’ or ‘she’ will be called blessed.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is distinguished professor of history and politics, Ashoka University

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Jun 15, 2018 20:12 IST