At a time when governors are in the news — the Gujarat governor has appointed a Lokayukta without consulting the government and we all know about Karnataka governor HR Bharadwaj — it’s just as well that Jayalalitha has got a governor who not only metaphorically speaks her language but literally too. Or we could say that they both speak the same language as Amma is well versed in Telugu. K Rosaiah, who had a forgettable tenure as the CM of Andhra Pradesh after the death in a helicopter crash of YS Rajashekhara Reddy, said at his swearing-in on August 31: “I am yet to learn Tamil. Since yesterday I have been trying to learn a few words and I can’t speak the language fluently now. But I will speak the language well soon.”
Rosaiah had already begun building bridges with Amma with statements soon after he was named: “I know her. I have had a chance to meet her. She knows Telugu very well. And when we met, she talked to us in Telugu, which I appreciate. I’m sure I don’t have any tussle with Jayalalithaa or any other gentleman there. I would like to take the co-operation of one and all and move forward,” he said.
Although Rosaiah has been quite voluble about Jayalalitha, the latter has kept her counsel. It was well known that the outgoing governor Surjit Singh Barnala, who was given a low profile send-off after seven years here as governor, had a personal rapport with former CM Karunanidhi. With the UPA government deciding to handle Jayalalitha with kid gloves, they have decided to send Rosaiah, who has never been known for his political acumen. The UPA chose him after he was cleared of a Rs 200 crore land scam in Hyderabad by the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
He became CM because of this non-controversial quality and when the Congress decided to dump him, he went quietly, even if petulantly. His being sent here is a reward for the 78-year-old politician whose stentorian voice addressing the “Adhyaksha (speaker)” in the AP Legislative assembly is what I remember. His booming voice made a mike redundant but he was seen as a gentle giant who could not manoeuvre political waters.
He apparently is happy to shed politics too. He said as much at his swearing in, saying that he ceased to be a politician at 4.22 pm (which was the time of his swearing in). Incidentally, at a entertainment show put up by Andhra Pradesh MLAs some years ago, Rosaiah came dressed as K Kamaraj, the veteran Congressman from Tamil Nadu. Was it clairvoyance?
When it comes to literary flourishes in Tamil, the DMK is way ahead. Considering that its chief is “Kalaignar” Karunanidhi, there is no dearth for puns when he speaks. But last week, DMK was at the receiving end of the left’s witticisms. State local administration minister KP Munusamy said that former DMK minister K Ponnmudy had encroached on a piece of land and was in the process of constructing a house for his Maamiyar” (mother in law). It’s no wonder that the CPIM legislature party leader A Sounderajan quipped, “So when are you sending him to maamiyar veedu (in colloquial Tamil that means prison)?
The question was answered with his arrest on August 31 in Villipuram. He is the fourth DMK minister, after Veerapandi Arumugham (strongman in Salem), K N Nehru (strongman in Tiruchi) and NKKP Raja (strongman in Erode), to be arrested on land grab charges and is believed to be close to former deputy CM, M K Stalin.
Ponmudy has been arrested for forcibly occupying land meant for the employees of the Thanthai Periyar transport corporation. According to the complainant, AIADMK trade union wing leader and Thanthai Periyar residents welfare association president Naryanaswamy, Ponmudy grabbed 61,600 square feet of land at Thainthai Periyar nagar which was meant for laying of parks and building of other facilities for the employees. A case has been registered against his mamayar (Saraswathi) apart from the absconding trustees of his family’s SIGA educational trust. According to Narayanswamy, Ponmudy took the land in 2007 and transferred it to the trust. The Trust, run by a close associate of Ponmudi, took 61,600 sq ft of land of the Periyar Transport Corporation Employees’ Housing Society for Rs 61 lakh. Although the market price was Rs1,600 a sq ft, the rate Ponmudy paid was Rs 100 per sq ft, thus causing a loss of Rs 9 crore.
Late last week, DMK MLA from Lalgudi, Soundara Pandian, was arrested in a land grab case on the Trichy-Chennai bypass road. He was produced in a local court and sent to Tiruchirappalli Central Prison. Pandian is the second member of the current assembly — the first one was J Anbazhagan, DMK MLA from Chepauk — to be held under land grab charges. Anbazhagan has since got bail.
Since Jayalalitha came to power three months ago and the constitution of special cells against land grabbing, nearly 9,000 cases have been registered.
While his sons Stalin and Azhagiri are going from prison to prison to look in on their “friends”, former CM Karunanidhi is going hoarse accusing Jayalalitha of “vendetta politics.” His latest is accusing her of “undeclared emergency.” Last week when he came to Fort St George — he has been keeping out citing ramp problems and his 23 MLAs have been boycotting the house — to sign the attendance register, Karunanidhi had the arrest of former minister K N Nehru in mind when he accused the government of the imposition of an “undeclared emergency.”
For someone who has suffered through the actual event — Stalin was arrested under Maintenance of Internal Security Act(MISA) and that episode in fact launched his political life — and who apparently has forgiven Congress so much as to align with that party, the former CM keeps bringing up the emergency a lot. Karunanidhi had accused the Election Commission of “unannounced emergency” in April after the EC acted strictly against money power in the run-up to the elections. At the time, civil society activists had berated him for belittling what people went through in the emergency imposed by former PM Indira Gandhi in 1975. Now one wonders what they will say considering that Jayalalitha is getting popular among the people for bringing land grabbers to book.
Incidentally, she told the assembly that land worth Rs.415.48 crore has been retrieved from land grabbers and restored to their rightful owners. As many as 8,947 complaints of land grab were received by her regime and 462 cases were registered. Charge sheets have been filed in three cases and 419 land grabbers arrested. According to her, many of these complaints of land grab were given during the tenure of the previous government itself, but police did not take any action then. “How could they, when Ministers were involved in such high-handed actions?” she asked. How indeed?