Jallikattu protests have ended, and Jallikattu has started again in Tamil Nadu. This time for power. In a move that surprised many on Sunday, the ruling AIADMK elevated party general secretary V.K. Sasikala as the leader of its Legislative Party. While the decision paved the way for Sasikala’s appointment as the next Tamil Nadu Chief Minister on February 9, it also triggered sharp reactions from opposition parties and a section of residents of the state.
AIADMK has been accused of playing with the sentiments of people who had voted for Jayalalithaa, who died recently. Following the untimely demise of one of the most beloved leaders of Tamil Nadu, the state witnessed a huge political crisis. Sasikala, who was one of the closest persons to Jayalalithaa, was accused by some leaders of being involved in a conspiracy to kill the late CM. Despite the allegations against her, Sasikala emerged as the most powerful face of AIADMK after Jayalalithaa.
However, amidst demand for a probe into Jayalalithaa’s death and an unprecedented political uncertainty and probably an intervention from the Centre, AIADMK nominated O Panneerselvam, who is known for his loyalty to Jayalalithaa, as the next Tamil Nadu CM, while Sasikala took over the post of General Secretary of the party.
But it was obvious from the start that Sasikala was the real power centre, not Panneerselvam. There were also questions on Panneerselvam’s leadership abilities. To fill the vacuum created by Jayalalithaa’s demise, AIADMK needed a character as strong as her. The way party leaders have already accepted Sasikala’s leadership, tells a lot about her political acumen and she may be able to finally put to rest the political ‘Jallikattu’ that started in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa’s demise.
Last month, entire Tamil Nadu was on the edge over SC-imposed ban on the state’s favourite bull-fighting sport (Jallikattu). It seems protests may again start over Sasikala’s elevation. Opposition leaders have accused Sasikala of having a “Criminal” background.
Expelled AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP Sasikala Pushpa said in letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, “It is condemnable to nominate or invite Sasikala Natarajan to be a Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu due to her criminal background. All criminal cases are pending and (she is) convicted.”
Supreme Court is expected to announce its verdict in a disproportionate assets case in which Sasikala is an accused along with late Jayalalitha. The verdict may or may not spell doom for Sasikala, but AIADMK is within its right to elevate her as long as she is not convicted.
In cases of the sudden demise of a popular leader, all political parties have the freedom to appoint the successor. They can’t just go by so called sentiments, which cannot be quantified on a short notice. Secondly, Tamil Nadu would have to undergo another election if AIADMK has to “honour” people sentiment.
Sasikala’s elevation was always obvious. Tamil Nadu should be happy that she has chosen not to run the state with a remote control, but lead it from the front.
(With agency input)