The late Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa (or Amma), ruled with an iron hand. Under her, corruption flourished, but there was a functioning government too. Jayalalithaa has passed on (may her soul rest in peace) and it is no longer relevant to dwell upon that chapter in the history of Tamil Nadu. The important question now is, whither Tamil Nadu? Jayalalithaa left behind a party and government that commanded the support of 135 members in a Legislative Assembly of 234 members, but she did not leave behind a designated successor. Perhaps she thought she would recover from her illness; perhaps she thought she had given enough indication that Mr O Panneerselvam (her nominee on two earlier occasions) would be her successor; or perhaps she did not care what happened after her. However, two things were abundantly clear: (1) She did not give the slightest hint that Ms Sasikala would be her successor and (2) She did not re-admit into the party Ms Sasikala’s close relatives whom she had expelled in 2011.
The Coup and Consequences
Nevertheless, after Jayalalithaa passed on, Ms Sasikala staged a coup of sorts. She succeeded in first getting ‘elected’ as the general secretary of the party and then as leader of the legislature party. Just when she was poised to become chief minister, the judgment of the Supreme Court scuppered her ambitions. She hurriedly expelled Mr Panneerselvam and got the legislators to elect Mr E Palaniswami as leader. The Governor had no choice but to swear in Mr Palaniswami as Chief Minister.
Inevitably, the AIADMK party split. To start with, there were two factions, but it is now apparent that there are three, if not four, factions. Despite the party’s split, the government continues as if nothing had happened! The budget session is underway, but no one has called for a vote on any demand for grant or on any Bill, and no one has moved a motion of no-confidence! That is a modern-day miracle produced by the survival instincts of the legislators!
The popular belief is that the BJP is the puppeteer and is pulling the strings that hold the four factions. It could be part of the BJP’s political strategy to carve out a space for itself in Tamil Nadu politics. It could be a tactical manoeuvre to garner the maximum number of votes for the election of the president and the vice-president. But if it is a long-term plan to win the AIADMK (or a major faction of the party) as an ally before forcing a mid-term poll in Tamil Nadu, then, serious questions will be raised.
Today, the AIADMK party and the government are leaderless. Cases of corruption are exposed every day, but no one in the ruling faction of the AIADMK seems to care, smug in the belief that all factions of the AIADMK are in the clutches of the BJP-RSS, and nothing will be allowed that may lead to the defeat of the government.
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After Jayalalithaa’s demise, the following major cases of corruption have been unearthed in Tamil Nadu:
– Income-tax searches on a mining group that started on December 8, 2016, led to the seizure of Rs 135 crore and 177 kg of gold. The trail led to the office and residence of the Chief Secretary, who was replaced.
– On April 4, 2017, income-tax officials searched the residence of the Minister of Health and claimed to have recovered documents, including a statement of money given to the Chief Minister and six ministers for distribution to voters in the by-election in the RK Nagar constituency.
– The by-election in RK Nagar constituency was cancelled because the Election Commission (EC) found evidence of large-scale distribution of money to voters. On April 18, 2017, the EC directed registration of cases against the Chief Minister and six ministers and their candidate..
– Two weeks ago, an investigative report in a newspaper revealed that a search had been conducted on July 8, 2016, on the premises of a gutka manufacturer and evidence of payments to a minister and senior police officials had been reportedly found. A report had been sent to the government soon afterward but no action was taken.
Administrative corruption is rampant. There is a rate card in Tamil Nadu — a kind of menu of services and prices! A service can be obtained at the listed price. Under the current government, the system has been decentralised. Each MLA of the ruling faction is the virtual chief (minister) of his/her constituency; each minister is the virtual chief (minister) of his/her district.
What’s BJP’s game?
Meanwhile, the finances of the government are spinning out of control. The total debt at the end of 2017-18 will be Rs 3,14,366 crore, which will be twice as much as the revenue projected at Rs 1,59,363 crore. The state took over the loan of Rs 22,815 crore of the power generation and distribution company (TANGEDCO) that caused the fiscal deficit to soar to a high of 4.58% in 2016-17. The Debt to GSDP ratio has risen to 20.9%. Capital expenditure, as a proportion of total expenditure, has declined in Heath & Family Welfare and in water supply, sanitation and urban development.
The government leaders in Tamil Nadu are ‘eating’ every day at every opportunity. The misgovernance is eating into the vitals of the state’s economy. The Prime Minister said that he would not allow any one to ‘eat’: his words were ‘na khane doonga’. Pray, then, will the BJP explain why it is breaking bread with such a party and government?