By George, land ahoy
It was said in the month-long gap between polling and counting that AIADMK chief Jayalalitha was collecting dossiers on DMK leaders and partymen who had grabbed land during the five years the latter party was in power. An AIADMK insider once told me that in Madurai, where then CM Karunanidhi’s son Azhagiri ruled "if you had a building or a house he coveted, you had to pack up and leave." Now there’s proof that dossiers were collected because cases of land grabbing are tumbling out including one where none other than the DMK headquarters in Tiruchi, Kalaignar Arivalayam, has been accused by G R Suresh Kumar of encroaching on his land for a car park. He has alleged that he was threatened of "dire consequences" by businessman Rajagopal, believed to be close to the brother of former transport minister K N Nehru (called the "Azhagiri of Tiruchi").
The police, during DMK rule, looked the other way, now all districts have a Special Cell for land grabbing cases to exclusively investigate complaints. According to S George, additional DGP (Law and Order), 540 complaints (excluding Chennai) involving property worth several crores were received in two days alone. NRIs are among the victims (in Chennai, the crime branch arrested five persons who created fake land documents for a property owned by a software engineer in Canada and registered the property) and the accused in virtually all the cases were linked politically to the DMK government. "Putting an end to land grabbing is among our top priorities," George said. The police all over the state claim that they have begun restoring the property that was illegally taken over.
In Salem, A Raja, a former MLA and the son of another former minister Veerapandi S Arumugham, was booked on the basis of a complaint made nine months ago that he illegally took over a three-acre piece of land at Jakkir Ammapalayam. But curiously, the complainant, Muthu Kumar, now says he had withdrawn the case three months ago after Raja had agreed to settle the matter out of court. But Salem DIG Vekatraman says no such withdrawal letter has come to him. He says, "The matter needs to be investigated and a report will be submitted." So is it a case of the AIADMK, now in power, flexing its muscle? Or has Muthu Kumar, whose property named Saravanan as the seller thanks to fake documents and the buyer as Raja (who paid Rs 15.05 lakhs only!) according to records at Sooramangalam sub-registrar’s office, gotten cold feet?
Maybe Rahul Gandhi needs to do a padayatra here too.
Powerless, in power
CM Jayalalitha has had to contend with two people’s agitations — both spontaneous — in recent days. One was because of a tragedy that is still playing out because the culprit appears to have been protected by the army. A 13-year-old boy, Dilson, got shot to death while trying to get almonds from a tree in the army compound at the Old Fort Glacis Officer's Enclave at Island Grounds. Jayalalitha said: "The jawan could have easily realised that the boy was not an extremist or terrorist. It is condemnable that the boy was shot. Such opening of fire is not acceptable." Even four days after the shooting, and the CB-CID being brought into the picture, amidst outrage that the boy was shot as if he was a terrorist, the culprit has not been caught.
But there seems to be little doubt among those agitating, including Dilson’s mother Kalaivani, that the child was shot by an army gun. In fact, on the day the child was killed, Kalaivani smelled a cover-up. "When we first reached the army compound to look for my son, we could not find him, It is only after searching the area, we found him unconscious and concealed by leaves."
The latest theory is that a drunk officer (the residential enclave is closest to the scene of crime) got trigger happy. And that has given added grist to the mill. Be it in Kashmir, Assam or Tamil Nadu, our forces don’t cover themselves with glory.
The restiveness over the Dilshan episode has made people temporarily forget that they held 14 spontaneous road rokos last Thursday/Friday morning when power supply was erratic thanks to the failure of the Manali electricity substation, Ennore Thermal Power Station and GMR Vasavi power plant at Basin Bridge. The advocate general A Navaneetakrishnan was forced to apologise to judges in the high court when the lights kept going off. And even the generator, which normally provides the back-up, failed.
It was therefore in the fitness of things that an exhibition on the conservation of antiquities was inaugurated virtually in the dark with candles used to illuminate the objects on display. After all it was in the fitness of things because the exhibits belonged to an era when electricity was not yet invented.
No wonder, when the CM was rolling out the red carpet to industrialists earlier this week, while addressing the National Council of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). She was reassuring: "I am aware of the nervousness in some sections of the corporate sector, arising out of some recent unfortunate power cuts. I take this opportunity to assure you that my government is seized of the issue and we are taking efforts on a war footing to correct the situation. Very soon, we will be able to make our state a power surplus state one again."
Cain and Abel
M K Azhagiri, who has kept mum since the DMK received a drubbing in the assembly polls, found his voice, barely a day after the DMK’s youth wing rooted for younger brother, Stalin, taking over the party. The party might be down in the dumps but the leadership issue is alive and kicking. Unlike the last few times when Azhagiri publicly contradicted his own father, former CM and DMK chief Karunanidhi who hinted at retirement implying he would hand over the reins to Stalin, (and then had to hastily back off) , this time Azhagiri seems to have tried to kill two birds — Stalin as well as the DMK cadre — with one stone. Contradicting Stalin, who attributed the defeat to opposition propaganda, Azhagiri, speaking at a Madurai wedding, said the defeat is "worrying" because it happened due to the cadre’s criticism of family rule rather than opposition campaign against it. Seems like a bad move to rile partyworkers at a time when the youth cadre has backed Stalin. And unlike Azhagiri, Stalin was diplomatic as always, telling the youth wing to bring up the succession issue at the right forum — the general council at Coimbatore on July 23 and 24.
Azhagiri had emerged hero in his father’s eyes having got himself acquitted of involvement in the Kiruttinan murder case and pulled off a stupendous victory for the party from Thirumangalam. Of course, later the bypoll victory came to be known as the "Tirumangalam formula" thanks to the use of money power. This was the blueprint that was used by the DMK in all subsequent by-elections as well.
But the blueprint did not work in the assembly polls. No wonder a frustrated Azhagiri said: "The defeat is worrying me. The defeat of DMK in all 10 assembly constituencies in Madurai district has saddened me. It was only in Madurai that a maximum number of people benefited from various welfare schemes of the DMK government. Even then we got defeated. In fact I had even helped the opposition members and leaders."
Incidentally, one of the reasons why he criticized partymen was for carrying pictures of family members in invitations, on bill boards and posters because that gave a handle to the opposition to criticize that dynastic rule prevailed. "If at all you want to carry the pictures, please carry photos of our late leader (C N) Annadurai, or Kalaingar (Karunanidhi). If you love for me is true, carry my picture but not of my family," he said. Unlike Stalin, who minds his Ps and Qs, Azhagiri has the reputation for saying it like it is.
Always the bridesmaid, not yet the bride
Incidentally, Stalin has had to wait a long time to become her father’s successor although Karunanidhi wants to hand him the baton. The first move orchestrated by Karunanidhi was at the DMK Youth Wing’s first state-level convention held in Tirunelveli in 2007. It seemed that Stalin (who is the youth wing secretary and DMK treasurer) was within striking distance of being named the DMK chief, but Karunanidhi got cold feet. It was only 18 months later that he was named deputy CM and that too only after Azhagiri was honoured suitably in the party by being named as South Zone organizing secretary, a newly created post.
So among "organizational matters" that are on the agenda at the general council meeting, will Stalin be allowed to take over a demoralized party? Interestingly, not only is the general council being held for the first time outside Chennai, but is also being held in Coimbatore, which is supposed to be the region from where Stalin gets his strength because the area is replete with his supporters.