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Democracy in Siege Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu politics has reached an interesting phase since the demise of the ruling AIADMK party General Secretary J.Jayalalitha on December 6. 2016.

The internal turmoil in AIADMK has seen a few twist and turn and at the center of controversy is V.K Sashikala, the close confide of late Jayalalitha, who first got elected as the General Secretary of the party and then harbored the ambition to be the third woman Chief Minister of the state.

The new AIADMK General Secretary asked then acting Chief Minister O Paneerselvan (OPS) to resign and make way for her and OPS after doing so raised the standard of revolt against V.K Sashikala to free the party from Sashikala’s control.

However, V.K Sashikala who was the face of the moment and wanted to be swearing as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on the basis of having the support of the majority of MLAs but could not achieve her goal as she was debarred from the politics by the Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court delivered the final judgment in the two decade old disproportionate assets case and convicted late J. Jayalalitha, V.K. Sashikala along with and two other for having property beyond their known source of income.

The Supreme Court judgment was a big jolt to the political ambition of VK Sashikala and all her dreams came crashing on the ground. In fast paced developments she was sent to prison for four years in Bangalore and became ineligible to contest the assembly election for ten years.

However, Sashikala, remained unfazed by the Supreme Court judgment and quickly brought in his nephew TTV Dinakaran and gave him the primary membership of the AIADMK but also elevated him to the post of Deputy General Secretary of the party.

She also picked up her loyalist Edappadi K Palaniswami, as a proxy Chief Minister and was called by the Governor to hold the office. The incumbent Chief Minister saddled him on to the hot seat of power after winning the trust vote of the majority MLAs amidst the din and clatter of the party rebels and the opposition.

TTV Dinakaran and his cousin S Venkatesh, who have been calling shots in the state administration ever since V. K Sashikala became the General Secretary, were re-inducted into the party by Sasikala after a gap of five years. The duo had been expelled by Jayalalitha for anti-party activities are now the most powerful persons in the state.

In the current arrangement, in all practical purposes, remote control of the AIADM will remain in the hands of V.K Sashikala in the prison cell, while the reins of the state administration will rest with TTV Dinakaran, and the incumbent Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami will remain a figure head.

The AIDMK party was formed in 1972, as a breakaway faction of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) by M.G. Ramachandran an iconic film star. Fondly known as MGR, Ramachandran died on 24 December 1987, and his wife Janaki Ramachandran, took over the party's leadership and became the 1st woman Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

However, soon infighting then broke in the party and two factions were created in AIADMK, one led by Mrs Janaki Ramachandran and the other by Ms J. Jayalalithaa, a close associate of MGR. The infighting led to fall of the Janaki Ramachandran government that lasted for only 24 days. Thereafter, Tamil Nadu was put under the President’ rule.

The next assembly elections in the state was held in 1989 which saw AIADMK being routed with Janaki and Jayalalithaa factions winning only 2 and 27 seats, respectively. Following this political debacle, Janaki faction merged under the leadership Jayalalithaa.

There was a fresh assembly elections in Tamil Nadu in 1991 and the AIADMK in alliance with the Congress swept to power in the state. Since then the AIADMK has remained under the leadership of Jayalalitha and has come to power several time, the last being in succession in 2016.

However, after the demise of the J. Jayalalitha, the AIADMK is witnessing once again the similar situation like the one created in 1987. This time the two factions are, one led by O Pannerselvan, a trusted loyalist of Jayalalitha and other by V.K Sashikala, a non-political figure but a close friend of Jayalalitha.

While, O Pannerselvan acted as proxy Chief Minister several time in the absence of Jayalitha, her close confide V.K Sashikala, has been her companion in her thick and thins.

Now the infighting in the ruling AIADMK party erupted when V.K Sashikala designated her as the General Secretary and asked O. Pannerselvan to resign and make way for her to become the Chief Minister of the state.

O Pannerselvan, after resigning from the CM post raised the standard of revolt against V.K Sashikala, and opposed her move to become the Chief Minister. He enlisted a wave of popular sympathy and a handful of rebellious MLAs also joined him in the fight to stop V.K Sashikala from having a total control on the AIADMK.

However, even in the atmosphere of rebellion against V.K Sashikala, enlisted the majority of the AIADMK MLAs, support and they voted for her handpicked loyalist Edappadi K Palaniswami in the trust vote to be the Chief Minister of the state.

Even though the popular sentiment is with O Pannerselvan, it is the TTV Dinakaran and Edappadi K Palaniswami who now control the politics of the state. V. K. Sashikala holds the sway over them from her prison cell in Bangalore.

This is big blot on the functioning of the democracy where the state power has been hijacked by people who do not have popular mandate. Both V.K Sashikala and TTV Dinakaran, are unpopular figures among the AIADMK supporters but opposed to popular will they are at the helm of affairs and are holding the reins of power of the state.

Both, TTV Dinakaran and V.K Sashikala were expelled from AIADMK by late Jayalaitha for indulging in anti-party activities in 2011. TTV Dinakaran was also involved in Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) violation case.

While Sashikala was taken back in the party following her public apology and commitment not to interfere in the political matters of the AIADMK, TTV Dinakaran was barred from the membership of the AIDMK.

However, now, both these figures are calling the shots of the state politics. It’s the ugliest face of democracy where popular will is being trampled. This is because as per the rule of the democracy one has to wait till next general election to test the popular will and in the case of Tamil Nadu this is going to happen only in 2020.

It appears that democracy has been under siege by self-seeking actors in the state in Tamil Nadu. It has been twisted and turned for personal favor and self-aggrandizement. And the most ironist thing about it is that no one can do anything about it.