Coup de grace

The Supreme Court has in one fell swoop shattered possibilities for Tamil Nadu to regain political stability, which the state badly needs, and soon. Its verdict in the disproportionate assets case involving VK Sasikala, which has led to her disqualification from contesting elections for six years after serving a four-year jail term, is a body blow to integrity of the most-powerful Dravidian party at present in the southern state.

The verdict has unleashed chaos within the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and sparked a scrum for power. It is another thing that it would ruin the political career of 61-year-old Sasikala, who will be required to spend four years in a prison in Karnataka with no government to back her.

The jail term and bar on contesting elections for six years thence would shave off ten years from her political career, which is a very long time.

Besides affecting Sasikala’s political aspirations, the SC verdict will work in two ways. For one, it has removed Sasikala from contention for chief ministership, giving hope to the O Panneerselvam camp; at the same time, it has also given the group led by Sasikala adequate reason to work against the ‘hostile takeover’ by O Panneerselvam (OPS).

Sasikala had maintained that Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre led by Narendra Damodardass Modi was orchestrating the turmoil in collusion with Panneerselvam. But with the verdict, she and the faction supporting her will now have to focus on consolidating their own position against machinations of the rival camp. The fact that many of the legislators that Sasikala had penned in at Golden Bay Resort in Kancheepuram defected to Panneerselvam camp adds to the urgency.

The verdict has sparked an internecine battle in the AIADMK, which is bound to weaken the party from within and its hold over power. The situation is being further complicated by caste equations at play within the AIADMK.

Reports that the Sasikala camp has nominated Edappadi K Palanisamy for chief ministership are being read as efforts by the faction to retain support of Gounders who form a sizable segment — 45 out of 135 — of legislators from the party. With caste equations, too, at play, the plot is layered and the party can tie itself up in knots without significant voluntary efforts.

Perhaps the entire episode could have been avoided had Sasikala bided for more time and not confronted Modi the way she did by putting up her bid for chief ministership. She perhaps felt threatened by Panneerselvam sucking up to Modi, behaving like a servant, touching the PM’s feet, and feared that he may pull the rug from under her feet. Her fears appear justified as the apex court judgement could be misconstrued as to have been influenced by present day politics.

Tamil Nadu politics will now dive into a vortex and in the absence of a strong Dravidian party to oppose it, and with the BJP trying desperately to barge its way into Tamil Nadu, may lead to a long period of instability to the detriment of that state. BJP’s pro-Hindi and pro-Manuvad themes could touch a chord in Tamil Nadu. But this may not be favourable for the future of India nor that state.

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