When Jayalalitha cruised to power in the recently held Tamil Nadu assembly elections for the fifth edition, it demonstrated complete hegemony of a party at that given point of time. That is the incredible nature of politics in Tamil Nadu where the mandate swings rather in completion. Chennai power structure is consistently bipolar with AIADMK holding one pole and Karunanidhi held DMK mantling the other side and there are splinter of other regional parties like MDMK and so on. With the demise of Jayalalitha or ‘Amma’ as she was affectionately adored by the masses, it certainly has created a vacuum of sorts in the state politics. With DMK patriarch Karunanidhi too fading in with age and warring sons in the background, is a tectonic shift in offing in the realms of Dravidian and Tamil polity?
Political parties in India are basically divided into three generic types. You have parties like the BJP or even the CPM which is cadre based. The second types are dynastical where even the succession and subtle onslaught of nepotism rules the roost like the Congress or the Shiv Sena. And then there is a third type which I would term as a one army one man party. In context of such parties, the biggest problem lies in anointing a successor after the party supremo fades into oblivion like Mayawati and her party. The third type is exactly patterned by Jayalalitha and her untimely demise has certainly put the party structure in a chaotic aftermath. Jayalalitha’s trusted point man Paneerselvam is entrusted the top job and seems to be a consensus CM to hold the party and prevent infighting as it will face the 2019 and 2021 elections late in horizon. The one army one man nature of AIADMK will be the biggest hurdle for it to revive on the same scale of popularity it enjoyed for the last few decades under Jayalalitha. Invariably after AIADMK patriarch MGR’s death, the same questions then were too propped up as the cult status he held amongst masses seemed irreplaceable to be replicated. And in the ensuing tug of war between factions and the Janaki factor, Jayalalitha emerged as the winner and inherited the legacy. With a mixture of populism and socialism with no aversion to the imbibing capitalist elements, she carved a Demi god status for herself in the state where patriarchy was dominant and the befitting title of Amma was prefixed on her destiny. In the midst of holding her sway somewhere those layers of succession were not created with no leader perhaps atleast for now is in the offing to inherit her legacy. Sasikala and her family who some political pundits say had a major influence over Jayalalitha lacks that charismatic demeanour to carry the baton. Known as the conscience keeper of Amma, on the contrary her style of functioning has been a subject to controversies and she had been expelled but later on reinstated in the party. After MGR’s death the air of positivity that was exhibited in Amma’s attire somewhere is lacking in Sasikala and even if she has been stamping her authority in administrative and policy matters, the treacherous nature of her negative control is well known. Even if the MLAs might be with her, the emotional connection with the cadre is somewhere weak and this will be her biggest hurdle in any attempt to centralize the party. In the subsequent elections, the fanning of emotional fervour of the cadre in lieu with Amma’s demise may benefit AIADMK but without a credible face it won’t muster to sustain for a long run and will just suffice for immediate political gains.
Will a weakened AIADMK give much needed impetus to the other side of polity control in Tamil Nadu? That is immensely doubtful as even if DMK is not a one man show, the tussle between Stalin and Azhagiri took proportions of an impending civil war and somewhere this may hurt DMK to emerge as an alternative. The next assembly polls will be held under the leadership of Stalin by all means but he lacks the same charisma and looks incapable of filling the cult status that is now left empty by the passing away of Jayalalitha. Even if the party has an edge owing to family succession and they have a successor, as seen in Shiv Sena or even the NCP, they just have merely inherited control but not the legacy and in the midst of it all has perpetuated their withering in terms of emotional chord they had with people.
Perhaps the advantage may just be ascribed to other regional parties like Vaiko as their influence never reached gigantic proportions of AIADMK or DMK. The state was a giant football game between these two warring giants and somewhere these parties failed to kick start their grandeur and Amma’s death may certainly give them much needed niche to find nourishment with a divided DMK on the other hand.
But the real dark horses for revival in Tamil politics may be the national parties who have been systemically marginalized for decades. Congress nationally as it is shrinking however may not make an oasis out of it unless it surgically revives its top leadership which is in doldrums. BJP can really think of making the state as an extension of its Project down south which was inaugurated with Yeddyurappa and Karnataka. Although examples of Maharashtra or Kashmir may not fit in the realms of personality politics of Tamil Nadu, BJP did manage to trounce regional parties in these two states and they somehow may take a leaf out of the same. Perhaps even in Karnataka their chances bolstered owing to Yeddyurappa and so a personality based developmental political equation BJP certainly can think about experimenting in one of those few states where it has marginal presence. Perhaps an amazing opportunity (this may look impossible or out of the realms now) may be to rope in Rajnikanth who PM Modi has good relations with and the personality based development model can be a distinct possibility even if touted may be a bit far fetched at present.
Death of Amma has brought a glorious age to an end and its ramifications on the Tamil Nadu politics will be shatteringly immense.
She has left a void that will be difficult to fill and the structural bipolarity that was embedded in the state is supposedly going to open and become more free flowing or flexibly fluidic to throw many certainties or possibilities in the ring. It is said nobody is indispensable yet the ending of her unparalleled aura has pushed Tamil Nadu and its corridors of power into a subtle uncertainty in the long run.
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