What does Jayalalithaa Jayaram’s arrest mean to Tamil Nadu? She has been found guilty of amassing wealth illegally, but in the process, she has also amassed the love and support of thousands of people who look up to her as a demi-god in Tamil Nadu politics.Sixteen people had died by either committing suicide or due to heart attacks following her arrest. The Tamil Nadu film fraternity got together in support of ‘Amma’ as she is popularly known and indulged in a hunger strike last Tuesday (30). Theater owners cancelled several shows in protest of the arrest.
This is the popularity and acceptance of Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu. Her entry into politics and the methodologies used to survive in the field can be argued. But the fact is that over the years, she has managed to muster a large following for her, and the party. She was sentenced to four years imprisonment by a Special Court in Bangalore a few days ago in a trial that lasted over 18 years.
She was accused of amassing illegal properties and a case was filed against her in 1996. She was found guilty of possessing unaccounted assets on September 27.The verdict triggered mass protests in the State with some taking their own lives for the sake of ‘Amma’.
Panneerselvam breaks down
O. Panneerselvam, who functioned as the Finance Minister of the Tamil Nadu State Government was subsequently selected as Jayalalithaa’s successor and took oaths as the new Chief Minister on Monday (29). The entire event was an emotional one and Panneerselvam eventually broke down while taking oaths.
He did not go to the Chief Minister’s room to assume duties, but to his own room, which was used when he was the Finance Minister. Jayalalithaa’s arrest was considered as a huge blow, not only from the perspective of her political career, but also on lines of the future of the party.
One woman show
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), an off shoot of the M. Karunanidhi led DMK has been Jayalalithaa’s baby ever since the demise of Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister, M.G. Ramachandran. It was Jayalalithaa who virtually held the party together and eventually emerged as a stiff competitor to Karunanidhi over the following years. Naturally, the subsequent years either saw Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa as Chief Ministers. Jayalalithaa’s journey from filmdom to politics has been documented, discussed and argued a lot by analysts and laymen alike.
Political deja vu
Jayalalithaa and her legal issues are not something new. In 2001, Jayalalithaa was not allowed to contest the elections as she was found guilty of criminal offences. She was found guilty of procuring property belonging to a state-operated agency called TANSI. She subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court, after being sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. However, she failed to contest the polls as the matter could not be resolved by the time elections commenced. However, the AIADMK managed to win the elections with a thumping majority and she was installed as Chief Minister as a non-elected member of the state assembly in May 2001.However, she had to resign from the position of Chief Minister following a Supreme Court ruling that a person convicted of criminal acts could not hold such office.
It was Panneerselvam who was appointed the Chief Minister at the time as well. However, it was a well-known fact that Panneerselvam was a staunch Jayalalithaa loyalist and that the Government was puppeted by Jayalalithaa herself. After being acquitted of some of the charges by the Madras High Court, Jayalalithaa assumed duties as the Chief Minister in March 2002.
Jayalalithaa who lost the elections in 2006 gave way to Karunandhi to be the next Chief Minister. Karunanidhi who had been accused of promoting nepotism in the past continued to face similar allegations this time around too. Karunandhi’s tenure as Chief Minister was also marred with allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds. The 2G scam in which his daughter, Kanimozhi was imprisoned was one such example.
Monopoly in Cinema
Karunandhi is a respected and reputed figure in Tamil cinema. Though he has never donned the greasepaint (not acted in movies), he was respected for his storytelling, screenwriting capabilities, and the command of the language.By the latter part of the last decade his grandchildren established production houses through which several Tamil films were produced and distributed. These production houses emerged powerful in a short time owing to the political backing and eventually began to mint money.While movie production saw a boost in quality due to the money involved, the dominance of Karunanidhi’s family proved to be a major obstacle for small time producers who were overshadowed by the family.
Final phase of SL war
In addition to the above, what is considered as the major reason for Karunandhi’s downfall and the re-emergence of Jayalalithaa was the stance taken on the Sri Lankan war. While Karunanidhi played it safe trying to protect his stake in the Central Government of the Congress, Jayalalithaa played into the sentiments of the people since she had nothing to lose and everything to gain.She could afford to criticize the Centre as she had no stake in it. She also came down hard on the Sri Lankan Government on the war, and the fishermen issue.
The people started to believe that Jayalalithaa could deliver the goods compared to Karunanidhi who merely sought to strengthen his family. She eventually became the Chief Minister once again in 2011.
Jayalalithaa, after assuming office, did act on her words by assisting the Tamil cinema industry by removing the monopoly enjoyed by the Karunandhi family. This allowed small time producers to come to the fore.She also passed a couple of resolutions against Sri Lanka, which was welcomed by several Tamil Nadu politicians and members of the Tamil Diaspora. Thus, she regained a firm footing in Tamil Nadu.
For DMK, the arrest has come as a blessing since it has given a slight opening to work its way back to the people due to the gap provided by jayalalithaa’s absence. It is not AIADMK which is a threat to DMK, it is Jayalalithaa, and Jayalalithaa alone.It is too soon to assume or comment on Jayalalithaa’s political future. But, for her opponents, the arrest is a boon. It would be interesting to see how Panneerselvam manages the State Government, and how the likes of DMK capitalize on the opportunity to re-establish their dominance.
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