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December 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         December 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:December' 2018


In danger zone

Santosh Kumar

Edappadi Palaniswami The Edappadi P a l a n i s w a m i government in Tamil Nadu can breathe a little easier now that the Madras High Court has upheld the disqualification of 18 rebel MLAs belonging to the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
This gives the ‘inheritors’ of Amma’s legacy a wafer thin majority to survive for the time being, but Palaniswami and his government continue to remain in the danger zone of Tamil politics.
The legislators were disqualified by the Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal last year for raising the banner of revolt against the chief minister and joining hands with TTV Dinakaran, who had questioned the authority of Palaniswami. Dinakaran, nephew of ‘outcast’ VK Sasikala, jailed long-time companion of the late J Jayalalithaa, has since floated his own political party, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and is emerging as a challenger to both AIADMK and the grand old Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), now led by MK Stalin.

P Dhanapal In June, a two-judge bench of the High Court had delivered a split verdict on the petitions of the MLAs, following which the Supreme Court had appointed Justice M Sathyanarayanan to hear the matter. Before pronouncing the verdict, the judge said the order “is his independent view”. The revolt by the 18 MLAs had brought the AIADMK government to a minority before the Speaker bailed Palaniswami out by disqualifying the legislators on September 18, 2017.
As the judge also vacated an interim order restraining the Election Commission from holding by-elections to the 18 constituencies, along with two others already pending, one due to the death of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi in August, AIADMK will have to face another acid test for survival in all probability before the 2019 general elections.
This is despite the fact that the 18 MLAs have now decided to move the Supreme Court.
By-polls to the 20 seats may define the mood of the Dravidian state in the absence of two stalwarts – J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi – who between them had decided the destiny of six crore Tamils for well over four decades. After the death of Amma in December 2016, Tamil Nadu, one of the most well governed states in the country, had slipped into a coma, paying the price for the internal feud within the AIADMK for her legacy.
Though Palaniswami is the chief minister representing the party, there is hardly any sense of stability in matters of governance or the affairs of the party.
The chief minister and his party are seen as a pawn in the hands of the current ruling dispensation in New Delhi. This will be the major drawback the party faces heading for the by-elections as and when they happen. More than its nascent leadership, the very existence of Amma’s party will be put under test, not forgetting the drubbing it got from Dinakaran at Jayalalithaa’s constituency RK Nagar last December.

TTV Dinakaran Dinakaran seems to be sitting pretty well and he has every reason for that. No wonder, immediately after the HC verdict he expressed his desire to go to polls rather than the Supreme Court. Though he has a party of his own now, Dinakaran’s larger game plan would be to recapture AIADMK by the time his aunt completes her jail term. Whether he would readily hand it over to Sasikala is another matter altogether. He has the money power to do so considering the fact that in today’s Tamil Nadu politics it is the purse strings that lead to the doors of Fort St George, the seat of power in the state.

J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi This will be the first time DMK will be facing an election without Kalaignar Karunanidhi and solely under Stalin’s leadership. DMK stands a chance to come back to power if the party does well in the by-elections. Stalin has so far conducted himself well, not trying to topple the present government with the help of Dinakaran.
Since such an alliance did not happen, Dinakaran’s AMMK more than AIADMK is likely to be DMK’s main challenger. Those who were with the People’s Welfare Front in the 2016 Assembly elections such as CPM, CPI and VKC are supporting DMK now. If Vaiko’s MDMK and film star Vijayakanth’s DMDK also decide to back Stalin, then DMK will be back in power in Tamil Nadu in six months.

Rajinikanth and Amit Shah Among the national players, the BJP is the one which is constantly eying Tamil Nadu which has 39 Lok Sabha seats. But the problem with the BJP is that it has no roots in the state. The party is hoping superstar Rajinikanth to launch his muchtalked about political party. BJP chief Amit Shah’s game plan seems to be to bring Rajini and AIADMK together. But Rajini seems to be evasive, not sure of himself unlike on the celluloid.
His hesitancy is quite understandable in a land where Dravida sentiments run deep and Rajini still being considered an outsider.

Among the national player BJP is the one which is constantly eying Tamil Nadu which has 39 Lok Sabha seats. But the problem with BJP is that it has no roots in the state. The party is hoping superstar Rajinikanth to launch his much-talked about political party. BJP chief Amit Shah’s game plan seems to be to bring Rajini and AIADMK together.

The other hero waiting in the wings is, of course, Kamal Haasan. He has a party, Makkal Needhi Maiam, but seems totally at a loss as to his moorings. He has the visibility but not the following as was expected. He seems to be keen on an alliance with the Congress considering his dislike of the saffron party. But then the Congress is with the DMK and it seems to be working all right. It would not be surprising that Haasan ultimately ends in the DMK-Congress camp rather than ploughing it alone.
But there is a generational change in Tamil Nadu. The people there no more seem to be enamoured by film stars as was the case in the past. There lies the dilemma of Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. And, to certain extent, Tamil Nadu itself.