A stinking governor
By Prem Chandran
With Jayalalithaa gone, the politicians and others in Delhi are seeing a window of opportunity to play their dirty games in Chennai. They are turning Tamil Nadu into a favourite hunting ground. What should have been a straight case has been made so complicated, with the express motive of effecting a split in the dominant Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, so as to enable the BJP and others to enter a turf that kept them away all along. By fishing in troubled waters, PM Narendra Modi and several others, including the RSS, are now suspected to be bent on throwing all democratic conventions to the wind and opening a new opportunity to Tamils to reassert their self-respect. Why blame Congress for all the ills of the nation when we have the BJP men around?
The manufactured support for caretaker CM, O Panneerselvam, in social media is just another drama, so far (repeat: so far), if only to spite CM nominee VK Sasikala and mess up the affairs for the AIADMK – the third largest political party in India by way of mass support. The reality is quite different; and that reality is what the established media is trying to put a lid on by claiming, among other things, that Panneerselvam’s support is growing by the day, for the simple reason that three or four more MLAs have switched sides out of a flock of 128.
With AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala meeting her flock of 128 MLAs and presenting them together before the media for the first time on Sunday, what stood out was the remarkable ease and composure with which she’s handling the situation. She conducted herself like a seasoned leader, giving no opportunity to the media to put her on the defensive. She asserted that the AIADMK would rule the state for the next four and a half years, and the entire MLAs with her were like one family. “We are one family,” she declared, and said they were enjoying the stay together. They might be, might not be. We do not know as yet for sure. However, nothing indicates so far that they are captives waiting to run out. Keeping them together in one or two places has its reasons that are understandable. That is how it happens every time a possibility of horse trading is in the air. Sasikala spent three hours with them on Sunday, and as much time with them Saturday as well, giving shape to the strategy to handle the situation. To a question from media personnel as to how many MLAs she has with her, she smiled and replied, “They are here. You count.”
The large crowd of MLAs stood behind her – women MLAs forming the vanguard, while the rest of them showed no irritation at the prolonged stay away from their bases. Some have their families coming and sitting with them for the whole day. They behaved liked disciplined soldiers of the party. Other than Tamil Selvan and one or two others from the Sasikala camp, no one is speaking a word to the media. Notably, Sasikala’s words and deeds so far are in a highly disciplined manner – a trait that she possibly inherited from her association with Jayalalthaa, who rarely spoke in public unless it was really needed.
While a word from Sasikala could have her party workers flooding the streets across the state, no such word went from her so far. Nevertheless, she made it clear on Saturday that “our patience is wearing thin” vis-a-vis the blatant politicking being played by the Centre – the BJP-led political establishment through a moustachioed yet unmanly governor, Ch Vidyasagar Rao. The governor is delaying the formation of a new government by the AIADMK by citing excuses – if the court verdict goes against Sasikala, what; who knows she can win an election in six months, etc. If one is a fool, well, no problem, one need not make an ass of others as well. That much dignity is expected of a governor too. Rao stated these even when the Supreme Court had not fixed a date for delivering its verdict. If the verdict goes against Sasikala, so be it. What’s wrong if she steps down and the party puts someone else? Have these things not happened in the past? What makes Rao to stray into territories that are not his, by way doing these blatently foolish loud thinking?
Governor Rao is simply giving an opportunity to Panneerselvam to get some more MLAs and split the AIADMK. Period. The governor is a plaything in the hands of the more powerful people, we know. Then, is there a difference, after all, between a Panneerselvam and a Vidyasagar Rao. Does his cinematic hero style disposition match with his actions? Or, dp these matches with villainy? The jury is out. The two are rather made for each other. This past one week has proven it more than a shadow of doubt.
As days pass, this is time for the Panneerselvam side to fish in troubled waters and entice more MLAs to their camp. Once the number reaches 18, Rao can tell Sasikala, Sorry, no way, you have no majority support now. Game over. Not many have moved to Panneerselvam’s side so far, but he made it up to an extent with the intake of a few MPs of the party to his side. The weakling that he is, Selvam is now crying. Tears rolling down his cheeks, he is saying how Sasikala used to terrorise him all these years! And, he’s man enough! News is DMK wants him to be CM, too. Really? What would Stalin do then? Jump into the sea at Marina Beach and do fishing? This is Panneerselvam, without ever having had the guts to challenge even a Sasikala when she was no more than a shadow of the imperious J Jayalalithaa. And, you expect of him to run the state of Tamil Nadu! Democracy allows that too.
Panneerselvam proved what he was worth when he went about moving from room to room with a framed photo of CM Jayalalithaa in front of his protruding tummy, and demonstrating his loyalty. Question being asked is, if he could go that far, where would he stop if he’s the all-powerful CM, and not the rubber stamp CM as he so far was? First he listened to dictates from Jayalalthaa; then he took dictations from Sasikala. That was until Sasikala asked him to step aside. There too, he resigned from the CM post and proposed Sasikala as the next CM. That was two months after he proposed her name as AIADMK general secretary at the party meet. Having overseen both the elections, and after weeks, he is picking holes in what happened. Being a chief minister with all the powers he had, could he allow himself to be manipulated by any Tom, Dick and Harry? He allowed it because he only had as much of self-respect, being a senior leader of the party himself. Who showed the strength of leadership – Sasikala or Panneerselvam?
Sasikala is no saintly figure. Nor was Jayalalithaa. Both were presumed indulging in joint farming, when it came to money laundering and other acts. May be for party purpose, may be for friends or families. Both faced court strictures relating to disproportionate assets. If Sasikala had done wrong things on her own, Jayalalthaa would have banished her from Poes Garden long ago. They lived together for three decades, and she was briefly asked out twice, for reasons of her family having indulged in acts which Jayalalithaa did not like. The close association between the two continued all the while. They did things together. Now, seeing an angel in Jayalalithaa, as sections of the media do, and seeing a devil in Sasikala, as the media as a whole does too, do not seem logical. But, does logic have any real use in this world?
If logic had any use, Ch Vidyasagar Rao would not have given a slip to Tamil Nadu when the political crisis took a major turn. O Pannerselvam submits his resignation as chief minister and Sasikala stakes her claim to be the next CM going by the support the AIADMK MLAs -- all of them including Panneerselvam -- extended to them openly at a meeting at the party headquarters. For a governor, the issue is straight and simple. Decide on a date and swear in the new leader elected to hold the office of CM, and swear him or her in. For, the party that has the majority in the assembly is seeking this. His brief stops there. Do it. Period. Ch Vidyasagar Rao, a former lawyer and former minister of state in the Union Government, who is now governor of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, however thought otherwise. He, or those behind him, suddenly saw an opportunity to play the dirty game. Instead of flying to Chennai to handle the situation, he takes a flight to Delhi in a huff from Coimbatore where he was attending a function; and from Delhi, he takes a flight to Mumbai, and ensconces himself in the Mumbai Raj Bhavan, close to the sea, waves giving him company at Malabar Hills, as if he has nothing to do with what's happening in Chennai.
This man who handles the post of Governor returns to Chennai a few days later, in cinematic style outfits, and holds meets with rival sides, and sits back. He started opening his mouth, saying he would consult legal experts before taking a decision. This here was a straight case. A chief minister submits his resignation, the governor accepts it and asks him to remain in the chair until he as governor makes alternative arrangements. Then he ducks, flies away from the scene, and acts funny and in an undignified manner. Under democratic system, whoever is elected as leader of the party with a majority in the assembly will have to be sworn in by the Governor. No excuses. It is not for you to look at the past of the individual. After all, the AIADMK party that has a majority in the assembly has sought this. If needed, the party would look at her past. A governor has no business to do so. He does not hold the trust of the people. He is just an appointee of the President at the behest of the Central Government.
Panneerselvam made no issue for a few days. Therefor, the issue before the governor, when he got the letter faxed to him to Coimbatore, was a straight one. This governor notoriously complicated it.
The elected leader, if he or she is not a member of the assembly, will be given time until six months to stand in elections and win a poll and become a member of the assembly. Sasikala is not a member of the assembly, but she has to be given this option – as dictated in the Constitution, not as a favour from the governor or the Union Government.
To blame Ch Vidyasagar Rao for what is happening, the dirtiest of the games really, is beside the point. Former governor of Tamil Nadu, T Anjaiah, a retired Congress leader and former CM of undivided Andhra Pradesh has said that, in such situations, governor acts as per the wishes of the Centre. This is what is happening. This is more so as Ch Vidyasagar Rao is a staunch BJP-RSS man. Union minister Venkaiah Naidu, who could be one of BJP’s south politician working from behind the scene, claims the BJP has no axe to grind in Tamil Nadu. “We do not have even an MLA there,” he says. Precisely, sir. That being the case, the BJP and its central leaders have no locus standi, no business, sniffing around and disturbing the stability and the normal political process in Tamil Nadu. AIADMK has won a massive mandate just eight months ago to govern the state.
The party MLAs elected a new leader, Sasikala, as the CM nominee, under whom they wanted a new government be formed after the demise of Jayalalithaa, a towering figure. When she died, the swearing in of Panneerselvam as CM was a temporary, a midnight affair done within two hours of Jaya’s demise. The idea was that the administrative process should go on uninterrupted. Then came the thinking that, can the AIADMK move forward with a man like Panneerselvam in the forefront. The party thought about it, Lok Sabha deputy speaker Thambi Durai guided the party, and the party leaders zeroed in on Sasikala, as she has been handling the affairs of the party for long alongside Jayalalithaa. Jayalalithaa gave Sasikala no leadership position. This was also by way of abundant caution that she as one from the numerically strong and powerful Thevar community could in due course emerge as a challenge to Jaya. At the same time, fact was also that with Jaya’s health steadily failing, she had taken a back seat, and allowed Sasikala to run the party affairs. She had faith in Sasikala. So much so, she played a big role in selection of candidates for the last assembly polls. This build-up has helped Sasikala after Jaya’s demise. These are well-known.
It is none of our business, or of Ch Vidyasagar Rao as governor, to dig deep and find out how someone was elected as the leader by the AIADMK MLAs who formed the majority in the state assembly. By vitiating the atmosphere by raising ifs and buts, this governor has not only undermined the democratic conventions and exceeded his brief, but also made a stink of himself. If no one is saying this, that’s the way the world is. firstname.lastname@example.org
Last edited by Premchandran; 02-13-2017 at 05:14 PM