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SHASTRI RAMACHANDARAN | 8 OCTOBER, 2014

Jaya's Legal Juggernaut Now Has Political Foes Supporting Her Bail

Jaya in Jail: Support Gathers Momentum


CHENNAI: In the twists and turns that Tamil politics is known for, AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa’s political opponents now hope that the former chief minister gets bail to come out of jail.

The longer she is behind bars, the more the sympathy and support she gains. And, the more her supporters go on the rampage, greater the chances of a breakdown in law and order resulting in President’s Rule. Dismissal of the stand-in Panneerselvam ministry would mean elections well before 2016 (when it is due) and a swell in the sympathy tide favouring the AIADMK.

The Karnataka High Court’s rejection, on October 7, of Jayalalithaa’s plea for bail and suspension of the four-year prison sentence handed out by the trial court on September 27, has plunged her stricken cadres into deeper despair. These sorrowing cadres, some of whom are said to have committed suicide or died of heart attacks, have been on a rampage venting their grief and anger for over 10 days since the Chief Minister was convicted for possession of disproportionate assets.

Her supporters are unmoved by reason and the logic that she is in jail for illegal amassing of wealth and that the charges of corruption were proven in a court of law. Her sway over the minds of her followers is so complete that for the millions who love, adulate and worship Amma, Jayalalithaa can do no wrong. There have been sporadic and intermittent bandhs, strikes and incidents of arson to show anger against her incarceration; and, there have been prayers, havans and fasts to move unseen forces in favour of the jailed AIADMK General Secretary.

In the event, law and order has broken down in many parts of the state. As one political leader put it, “There is no rule and no rule of law in Tamil Nadu”. The opposition parties, particularly the DMK, once eager to see Jayalalithaa behind bars, are no longer gleeful over her plight. In fact, the DMK and other parties are fearful that the AIADMK cadres, by continuing on the rampage, may force the Union Government to impose President’s Rule in Tamil Nadu.

This apprehension has united the DMK and other parties to come out against continued disruption of law and order and normality in the state. The DMK, which hoped to capitalise on Jayalalithaa’s conviction, has realised in the aftermath of her being jailed that it is the AIADMK which is gaining and not its opponents. In fact, the DMK fears that the 2G case -- in which former Union Minister A Raja and M Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi are implicated – and other charges of corruption against the leading lights of the DMK would further wreck the electoral prospects of the party which could not win even one of the state’s 39 Lok Sabha seats.

The smaller Tamil parties – such as the MDMK of Vaiko, the DMDK of actor Vijayakanth and the PMK of Dr S Ramadoss – have hardly gained by their alliance with the BJP. On the contrary, they are of declining relevance in the Jayalalithaa-centric situation that is now evolving. The AIADMK, which bagged 37 Lok Sabha seats, has subsequently humbled its opponents in elections to local bodies.

With the DMK, the Congress and smaller Dravidian parties out of the reckoning, this could be an opportune moment for the BJP to grab what political space it can. The BJP has a strong appeal for those who want Tamil Nadu to break out of the grip of the Dravidian parties, which have ruled the roost since 1967.

However, the state BJP leadership is busy with factional tussles and stuck with a president who is yet to be ratified in the post. While it is hard to put a face to the BJP in Tamil Nadu, party sources say that there are four ‘leaders’ and as many factions. These leaders are at loggerheads and opposed to the national leadership’s attempts to woo actor Rajinikanth to play a leading role in boosting the party’s profile and presence in the state.

The state ‘leaders’ -- who see themselves as potential chief ministers if Prime Minister Modi is able to visit the state and swing the popular mood -- feel that if Rajinikanth enters the scene, they would be reduced to further irrelevance.

BJP leaders who see an opportunity in Tamil Nadu are convinced that the one man who may be able pull it off in the Dravidian fortress is Narendra Modi. However, Modi cannot turn his attention to wresting the southern state from the Dravidian forces until after the elections in Maharashtra and Haryana.

Meanwhile, the Jayalalithaa Juggernaut rolls on with every legal turn in the case providing fresh political ballast to the AIADMK.

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