Jayalalithaa loyalist touches Palaniswami’s feet as EPS slowly slips into Jaya’s shoes
At every turn and twist, AIADMK party workers were never tired of sycophancy and professed their loyalty to late Chief Minister and the party’s prima donna, J Jayalalithaa. She was revered and called party’s guardian angel. Now, a section of AIADMK men has extended the same to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS).
On Thursday, some AIADMK legislators and a few former ministers were seen touching the feet of EPS before he boarded the flight to his first ever foreign trip, being undertaken with an aim to woo investors in the Britain, USA and Dubai. It was all a show of sycophancy in full public glare. Among those who paid such obeisance was former minister BV Ramana, who was in the Jayalalithaa cabinet.
Now, EPS has done a Jaya act, dispelling any doubts as to who was in command in the party and the government.
When Jayalalithaa was alive, her ministerial colleagues, including EPS and the current Deputy CM, O Panneerselvam (OPS), not only prostrated at her feet, they kissed the floor and touched the wheels of her vehicle in reverence. When her chopper took off during election campaigns, they used to look above in devotion with folded hands.
Can EPS be anything less? He was called a deity in a promotional film, commissioned by the State Information Department in 2018, only a few months after he assumed office.
For the AIADMK, this is nothing unusual. Former minister and party spokesperson, Vaigai Chelvan, argues that this is not a display of adulation but of affection and respect. For, the Chief Minister has proved that he is no push over, but a leader capable of steering the AIADMK ship, he added.
“Neither the party nor the leadership encourages this. But, I was surprised to see former minister BV Ramana doing it. After the demise of Jayalalithaa, EPS has steered the party and the government providing stability. He has proven the doubting Thomases busy writing AIADMK’s obituary, wrong. As such, the cadre and the functionaries are grateful to him and only express their love and affection. It should be seen in that light,” explained Vaigai Chelvan, who was present at the airport to see off EPS.
Further, he pointed out that EPS was the first CM after party founder and late Chief Minister MG Ramachandran to head abroad for securing investments for the state. Jayalalithaa, despite her long innings as Chief Minister, had never ventured on a foreign trip to drum up investments.
This rationale fails to convince many, especially those in the opposition. Jayalithaa was a charismatic leader, who commanded the respect of the masses, the excessive exhibition of reverence, paving the way for her larger than life image was therefore tolerated. The encore with EPS, however, has come in for criticism.
Terming this as unacceptable political behavior, the opposition DMK sees it as an attempt to imitate Jayalalithaa. According to DMK Organising Secretary RS Bharathi, MP, such practices are antithetical to democracy.
“It is very clear that EPS is conducting himself as though he is a Jayalalithaa and imitating her in many ways. From the security detail that he has to announcing schemes in the Assembly under Rule 110, which does not entail a discussion, he is following her. Now, AIADMK men have started falling at his feet. This exposes that the AIADMK functionaries will be ready to bend before anyone who is in power,” he says.
Despite concurring with Bharathi, Viduthalai Chiuruthaigal Katchi (VCK) general secretary D Ravikumar has a different take on this. In his view, this exposes the inherent nature of Tamil society where people go to any extent to be in the good books of those in power and prove their loyalty.
“In the recent past, we have seen some people cutting their fingers or tongue to propitiate a deity for the sake of Jayalalithaa. It is innate to the feudal culture of the state. And this practice of falling at the feet of politicians, which started with MGR, continues to this day. It only shows that Tamil society needs to be democratised and pulled off from its feudal value system,” he says offering an explanation.
However, political analyst P Ramajayam, of the centre for the Study of Social Inclusion and Exclusion, Bharathidasan University, views this as a clear indication of the ruling AIADMK coming around EPS, considering him as the best option to lead the party in the given circumstances.
“It is to his credit that he is in power for more than two years, while keeping the flock intact and warding off the attempts to poach by Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran. He has effectively brought OPS under his thumb. Even in the advertisements in the party organ ‘Namathu Amma’, it was EPS who was given prominence while OPS was consigned to the margins. And in the AIADMK, the functionaries know which way the wind blows and sail accordingly. They only need someone before whom they could prostrate,” he reasoned.