November 29, 2020
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Some days ago, the Bharathiya Kisan Sangam in Trichy district lodged a complaint at Musiri police station that power had been “stolen in the state”...

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Chennai Corner
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A River of Fire

“It (political life) is a river of fire where the script is full of ingratitude, betrayal and conspiracy,” Jayalalitha said in a message to her cadres on the eve of the 40 years of AIADMK, which was founded by MGR on October 17, 1972. The function for the event was like a carnival with the usual MGR look-alikes and some cadre with their faces painted with the two leaves symbol of the party and even one man with a portrait of amma painted on his stomach! Amma came for a few minutes, hoisted the flag, distributed sweets and went away. From her message, one could tell that she had spent the first part of her life spouting melodramatic dialogue. But you could also tell that she has spent the second part of her life in the rough and tumble of politics— she became a member of the AIADMK in 1982— and has come out on top, becoming the CM thrice ( technically, four times). How did she do that? Her answer was that she was focused on fulfilling her responsibilities without fear. 

In fact, “bold” is commonly used to describe Jayalalitha and her recent decision to strip the Speaker (Jayakumar) of his posts and cut him to size has been her hallmark. In July she did it to Minister Sengottiyan and he is still hovering around, hoping for her benevolent gaze. There are people who say that her control over the party is more complete than even MGR. A senior leader admits that “MGR was constantly worried about what Karunanidhi said about his governance.” With Jayalalitha, we have seen her always being in a confrontationist mode with Karunanidhi.

The Second Sex

But despite Jayalalitha rising so high, the lot of women politicians in the state is nothing to celebrate. AIADMK MLA S. Muthuselvi, who was picked by Jayalalitha to contest the Sankarankoil by-election in March and won handsomely, says that her opponents in the party are ganging up to pull her down. She claims that in August, her adversaries distributed a CD in her constituency, maligning her. Her petition to Jayalalitha is still pending.  

In the current (14th) assembly, women MLAs only constitute 8 per cent. The number of woman MLAs in 2011 with the number in 2006 in brackets are— AIADMK 13 (7), DMK 1 (8), DMDK 2 (none in 2006), CPM 1(3) and Congress 1(3). 

Incidentally, Gokula Indira, the minister for tourism, who is very active and very fond of getting her pictures in the newspapers, has filed a defamation case against Murasoli, DMK’s mouthpiece, against an article there which said she was just a mask and it was her husband who was manipulating the strings in the background. According to the defamation complaint in the Principal Sessions Court, Karunanidhi in his “Kalaignar Pathilgal” on August 23 said that though Indira headed the tourism ministry, the department’s files were being cleared by her husband. The truth is that women politicians at the panchayat level have been accused of being a rubber stamp for their politically ambitious husbands who could not run for election because the seat was reserved for women.

National Aspirations

There was a bit of contradiction in Jayalalitha’s speech though. While she claimed that her party was victorious because of its good work, she also said that people had rejected those who had “looted the nation of several crores of rupees ( a reference to the 2G scam), brought disrepute to Tamil Nadu at the national level by indulging in unprecedented scams and hindering the progress of the state.” So was the victory because of her or because of “evil forces" ( referring of course to M Karunanidhi). “Such evil forces are trying to rise again thinking that people would have forgotten their misdeeds. We know that people will not allow that to happen,” she said.

Once again, Jayalalitha showed her inclination for being a major player on the national stage. “I realise with gratitude that people are waiting to give more victory prizes to the AIADMK.” She boasted that she was implementing various welfare measures in order to put the state on top and several states were following her example. She let it be known that she had no “personal motives” and she followed the principle “I am for you and I am because of you“.

Well, 2014 elections will be proof of whether the AIADMK is still rocking or waning.

Although, according to finance minister O. Paneerselvam (who is such a loyalist that Jayalalitha made him CM in September 2001when the court quashed her appointment as CM that she got overturned and won a by-election six months later to come back) said that her chances of becoming PM is brightening. Some weeks ago, AIADMK leaders had toured the state to impress on the people that her becoming PM was in their hands and they should take a wise decision.

Powerless Before People

“First, let her provide electricity to people. Then, dream about victories. What a shame that many cities experience 16 hour power cut. She needs to empathize with the people and stabilize the energy crisis first,” was the reaction of a citizen reacting to Jayalalitha’s prediction of a “resounding win” in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In fact, going by the anger in the state over power cuts everywhere (as of October 18, Chennai is back to two hours of load shedding), Jayalalitha might be counting her chickens before they are hatched. Many citizens point out that she has been in power 18 months and she cannot get away blaming the previous DMK government for the power crisis.

In fact Karunanidhi, writing in Murasoli, echoed the popular perception that she should “focus” on alleviating the power crisis instead of handing out false promises. “Who is preventing the government from repairing Valathur and Gas turbine stations which could generate 288 MW power?” he asked. She had earlier said that by June, load shedding would be reduced, but with wind energy diminishing, the situation has turned worse because the power deficit is back to being 4000 MW.

While the fact that Chennai’s power cut is going to be doubled, might silence somewhat the criticism that other parts of the state are getting step-motherly treatment at the cost of this metro, the fact is things are not going to be much better. At least not because of the government, but thanks to nature, however, the North East monsoon came calling on October 18, bringing down temperatures and much needed water to farmers. Even wind energy output was 50 per cent more than last year. All thanks to mother nature.

Laughter, the Best Medicine

Welfare schemes cannot buy votes if people are unhappy about “current” which is absent for 12 to 14 hours is the common refrain. Wailing agitations, token fasts, torch processions, rasta rokos, candle-light processions are among the protests being resorted to by people.

Some protests make you smile: For instance, some days ago, the Bharathiya Kisan Sangam in Trichy district lodged a complaint at Musiri police station that power had been “stolen in the state” while a traders’ forum at Needamangalam in Tiruvarur district and the Video and Photographers’ Association in Aranthangi in Pudukottai district recently pasted posters on walls seeking help to trace ‘Electricity’ , which was in use for long, but has gone missing. For those looking to trace it, helpful hints were offered— you get a shock if you touch it and its height (referring to the tariff) is quite high. The notice said those who had information could get in touch with the nearby Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) office or a sub-station. 

Coimbatore residents staged a protest using a live snake. Why? Because these creepy crawlies will slither into your house because it is dark in the absence of power. In Kumarapalayam in Tirupur district, a group stuck posters on walls thanking a former minister because in his regime there were power cuts only for two hours!

There were posts and cartoons on Facebook that were funny too. For instance: this was the question in Tamil in a mock version of ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’- Does anyone know when the power will be back? The options: 

A: I Know
B: You Know
C: EB (Electricity Board) Knows
D: Nobody Knows. 

“This is the final question and the correct answer will fetch 1 crore,” said the post. 

Well, nobody knows!

Cat and Mouse 

At a time when the DMK chief M Karunanidhi is trying to prove that the land grab cases and other scams in which his party’s leaders and former ministers figure is because of “vendetta politics” unleashed by CM Jayalalitha, and after calling for a CBI inquiry into granite mining, the last thing he needed was a grandson who is absconding for over two months.

But yet, Dhayanidhi Azhagiri, son of union minister M K Azhagiri, is doing just that and now a warrant has been put out for his arrest by the judicial magistrate at Melur (near Madurai) even as 15 police teams are looking for him. He has been named as one of the accused in the Rs 16,000 crore granite scam and his company, Olympus Granites, is accused of “stealing” and causing a loss of Rs 44 crore to the Tamil Nadu Minerals Limited (Tamin). Even his wife, Anusha, told the police she does not know his whereabouts nor do his brothers-in-law, Venkatesh and Vivek.

Karunanidhi upset over his grandson running from the law reportedly told his family members to get Dayanadhi alias Durai (whose anticipatory bail was earlier dismissed by the Madras High Court) to surrender. But his advocates at the Madurai bench of the high court and at the Melur court have ruled out his surrender. Dhayanidhi’s counsel, Veera Kathiravan, said, “We have filed an anticipatory bail plea in the high court against the arrest warrant issued by the Melur court. Why should he surrender?” His argument made through his lawyer, S Mohanan, was that the police had erred in obtaining a warrant from a lower court when his second anticipatory bail application (filed on October 6) in addition to a petition to quash the FIR against him by the Keezhavalavu police were still pending. The court  have finally decided to keep the non-bailable warrant in abeyance till November 2.  

It looks like a cat and mouse game now. The police claim they have “intensified” the search for him and if he still evades arrest, proceedings would be initiated to declare him as an absconder.


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