Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s sad demise is a wake-up call for politicians like Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Naveen Patnaik. There is no doubt that Jayalalithaa was one of the most loved and respected politicians in Tamil Nadu, probably second only to late MG Ramachandran, with whom Jayalalithaa had worked in several movies.
However, Tamil Nadu is now facing a leadership crisis. There is no leader who can command respect from people not only in the state but across the country as well like Jayalalithaa did. Her successor O Panneerselvam is known only for his loyalty to Jayalalithaa. It is unexpected of Panneerselvam to do something out of the box and affix his leadership stamp on the state.
While people of Tamil Nadu will hope Panneerselvam to play Jayalalithaa’s role perfectly, the possibility of an outbreak of power struggle in ruling AIDMK cannot be denied. It will happen, if not now then sometimes later. The situation could have been avoided had Jayalalithaa groomed a successor in her lifetime.
Jayalalithaa remained in the state politics for around 30 years after the demise of MGR. In all these years, no other charismatic leader could rise within the AIDMK. One may find it surprising but the phenomenon is similar in some other states as well.
Just like late Jayalalithaa, leaders like Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Naveen Patnaik in Odisha command massive adulation from their respective followers. Ironically, however, the three have also not let the second line of leadership grow in their respective parties even as they have been in politics for decades.
Politics is often a game of treachery. History is full of examples when new leaders emerged after sabotaging the career of older ones. Probably, it is this treachery that prevents politicians from letting any alternative leadership grow.
However, the stranglehold of one charismatic leader over a political party is not in the interest of democracy. When such leader dies, the party often ends up in a mess. The Indian National Congress can be safely cited to be the perfect example of this. The present condition of Congress is because of the mediocre leadership of Rahul Gandhi. But the party doesn’t have any other option, or it has shown no inclination to find other option.
Interestingly, regional parties like BSP, BJD, JD(U), TNC can draw some leadership lessons from Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which is often attacked by the Opposition for not having enough talent at its disposal. But the truth is, the party never has a leadership crunch as such, by the virtue of not being ruled by either by one person or a family.