May 23, 2015

AMMA RETURNS

AIADMK SUPREMO IS BACK WITH A BANG

Much to the chagrin of her enemies, AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa who was given a clean chit by the Karnataka High Court in the disproportionate asset case couple of weeks ago is back, 'officially' the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for the fifth time. After being convicted in the case and given a jail sentence for four years in September 2014, the regional satrap who swept to power in the last state polls had stepped down and entrusted the responsibility of the state to here confidante O Paneerselvam. Since then, she had maintained a rather low profile, refusing to make public appearances and this meant that most public projects were struck up since the 'Iron Lady' was not there to inaugurate them. Although this may sound hilarious for most of us, people following Dravidian politics will certainly not be surprised. After all, politics down south is as dramatic as the local cinema and most of the successful Tamil politicians including Jaya have their roots in the film industry.

With the AIADMK chief back at the helm of affairs, the prospects of her party in the state elections scheduled for the next year have blossomed overnight. After successive victories, first in the 2011 polls and then in the 2014 General Elections, the Amma Express was on a roll. The many freebies and welfare schemes launched during her tenure were paying off. Its primary opposition in the state - the DMK was battling allegations of corruption and the fight within its first family was only intensifying with each passing day. Just when everything seemed to be going right for Jaya and her followers, the ruling of the Karnataka HC came as a massive jolt, threatening to cut short her political ambitions for the time being. However, much to her relief, the recent ruling, acquitting her and three others of all allegations of wrong-doing during her previous tenure have only enhanced the 'aura' of invincibility surrounding her. Speaking after the verdict she said that she has come out of the 'ordeal' like pure gold; in fact, many believed that Jaya could even consider snap polls, trying to en-cash on the sympathy wave following her acquittal.

From the perspective of the AIADMK, the decision is a big fillip before it kick starts its campaign for the 2016 polls. The return of Amma as the CM of Tamil Nadu is set to herald in a new set of reforms as well as public welfare scheme - read 'freebies', aimed at consolidating her voter base that has stood firmly with her for some time now. Many schemes like the Chennai Metro which has been completed but not yet made operational, apparently since Jaya was not there to inaugurate it are likely to be opened for the public. Though state politics may be her primary concern as of now, the AIADMK is expected to now play a more proactive role in the Lok Sabha too where it is the third largest party with 37 members. Besides, its 11 members in the Rajya Sabha too could be actively wooed, both by the government and the various opposing blocks considering that many of the Bills could be stuck up in this house.

While one witnessed scenes of ecstatic celebrations in the AIADMK camp, a wave of gloom has set upon the DMK. Though Karuna tried to take a 'principled' stand saying that the 'court of conscience' was above all other courts, it is clear that his party's attempt to use this issue to script a revival has gone down the drain. The numerous problems plaguing the DMK just seem to be piling one after another. As if successive defeats were not enough, the fight between Stalin and Azaghiri that led to the ouster of the latter from the party has severely weakened its ranks. The allegations of graft against some of its prominent leaders including Karuna's daughter Kanimozhi, his nephew Dayanidhi Maran and former Telecom Minister A Raja has tarnished the party's image to a large extent. In the present context, it will take more than a miracle for Karuna and the DMK to prevent Jaya from winning a straight second term.

Although it was BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who had filed the case against the Tamil Nadu CM nearly two decades ago, Jaya's acquittal is likely to bring cheers to the saffron outfit. It is a well known fact that the PM and Jaya share a good personal rapport. After the verdict, Modi is believed to have called up Amma and congratulated her. With the AIADMK chief coming out clean from all the allegations levied against her, it makes it much easier for the BJP to work with her party. Since the NDA lacks the numbers in the Upper House, the saffronists would now try to strike some sort of a working deal, if not a partnership between the two political parties to check mate their enemies.

For the Congress though, the case could give it the leverage it needs to stage a comeback down south or at least try to get back some of the space that it has conceded to others. The local party unit is in tatters and unless it manages to make up with its former ally - the DMK which is unlikely, it will find it extremely difficult to even cross the two digit mark in the next state polls. But then, as fate would have it, the Congress is all set to play a key role in the Jaya saga which is far from over. After all, it is in power in Karnataka and it is up to the Siddaramaiah government to file a review petition in the Supreme Court against the HC verdict. In that scenario, the Tamil Nadu CM could be in for some problems in the near future. More importantly, the move will perhaps be the first step in the renewal of ties between the INC and the DMK which has been left red-faced after dropping of the charges against Jayalalithaa. However, the move could boomerang too since this may translate into more closer ties between the BJP and the AIADMK which will be a win-win situation for both.

With the party being relegated to a 'pariah' and regional satraps largely ostracizing it, the Congress rarely gets a chance to play a decisive role in politics nowadays. However, in the Jaya disproportionate asset case, it is the INC that holds the cards. The party leaders need to evaluate all the angles and come up with an action plan that can help it turn the tide in its favor. Whatever the party's government in Karnataka does, the implications of that decision will not only impact Tamil politics but will resonate in the National Parliament.