Dhinakaran’s RK Nagar win has plunged Tamil Nadu into another round of political churning
If there were any questions about AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa’s hegemonic hold over her party – given that pictures of her conscious self in her last days did the rounds before polling began in the RK Nagar seat she had held for years the verdict settled that in one blow. Whatever be the shadow play among factions daiming legitimacy to her legacy, and their questionable methods of sealing continuity in power, it seems Amma’s close aide, Sasikala, though now Chinamma or surrogate mother, has held her own in Tamil Nadu. Her nephew nv Dhinakaran won convincingly as an independent in the by polls, despte losing the party symbol and being cast aside by the new ruling dispensation led by Chief Minister E Palaniswami and his deputy o Panneerselvam. That too on MGR’s death anniversary, and from
Amma’s cttadel. In a political scenario dominated by personality cult, the result came not just as a shot in the arm for Dhinakaran’s survival. It catapulted him into the top league, with his supporters claiming “sleeper cells” in the ruling party who are ready to jump ship. Poltical circles are abuzz with horse-trading and Dhinakaran himself has vowed to win back the AIADMK symbol from the Election Commission. While the rebel MLA has sought legal recourse for getting his 18 MLAs reinstated in the House, his camp has begun talk of a floor test where ruling MLAs and ministers would cross over and sound the death knell for the Palaniswami Government. It is too early to judge if the bluster has any weight but be that as it may, the victory proves that Sasikala has not lost her g rip over the organisational cadre of the AIADMK, as she had in Jayalalithaa’s time. And though Jayalalithaa had expelled Dhinakaran and disowned Sasikala many times, fact is she always ended up reacom modating her recalcitrant confidante. Only because Sasikala had nurtured the cadre and had a hand in even the lowest rank appointments. Yes,there was confusion in the post-Jayalaltthaa days, a fact that was feasted upon by national parties and vested interests to engender breakaways and stttch new alliances in their favour. But in one swoop, Dhinakaran has changed the dynamics and plunged Tamil Nadu into another round of political churning.
The BJP, which polled less than the total number of NOTA votes in Tamil Nadu, has to tread cautiously in a state where power play is often interpreted in terms of optics and the battle of perception is often won on symbolism. Besides, Tamil Nadu likes its own leaders to call the shots, not genuflect to Delhi. A strong Sasikala will be BJP’s worst nightmare, trying hard as it is to make inroads into the state by 2019. If serious number crunching has to happen, it needs a far more deep rooted strategy. There’s also a caste tussle involved. E Palaniswami’s elevation as the Chief Minister was seen as an increasing consolidation of the Gounder community in a party dominated for years by the Thevars.TTV, in that sense, embodies the Thevar hit back. Striking a bargain with DMK, too, is a far fetched dream as the party ended a poor third. Although there is speculation that DMK chief MK Stalin laid low, hoping the deep factionalism would sink the AIADMK in deeper political ferment, the decisive verdict has raised another leadership contender for Tamil Nadu. But the verdict proves that the voters either didn’t know of or didn’t care about the burden of bribery cases that Dhinakaran has to bear or that Sasikala was convicted in a disproportionate assets case by the Supreme Court. This tolerance to corruption is a cause of bigger worry.