[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]t may be a strange coincidence. Tamil Nadu, home to rationalist Dravidians who have only hatred for Ramayana and Lord Rama, is witnessing a Ramayana with a difference. In the Ramayana authored by Sage Valmiki, Bharata ruled Ayodhya during the absence of Lord Rama from the country for a period of 14 years. Once Lord Rama fulfilled his father’s wish that he should stay away from the country for 14 years in exile and came back to Ayodhya, his brother Bharata who stood in for him and ruled the country by placing the Lord’s footwear on the throne immediately held the Pattabhishekam (coronation) of his elder brother. All’s well that ends well.
Panneerselvam conducted himself as a most obedient servant and rushed to Raj Bhavan in Chennai to submit his resignation when Jayalalithaa was acquitted of all charges following her appeal challenging the special court verdict.
But not in the Ramayana being seen in Tamil Nadu. Chief Minister O Panneerselvam who is described as a modern day Bharata by his colleagues in the AIADMK is set to become the eternal Bharata. He was sworn in as chief minister for the first time in 2001 when the Supreme Court quashed the action of the then Governor of Tamil Nadu Fathima Beevi appointing Jayalalithaa as the chief minister immediately after the 2001 May assembly election. At the time of her swearing in as chief minister, Jayalalithaa had been sentenced by a special Court in Chennai to three years imprisonment in the infamous TANSI land deal case. Though Beevi, a former Supreme Court judge had been warned of the consequences of swearing in Jayalalithaa, she chose to look the other way and administered the oath of office and secrecy to Jayalalithaa.
Within months, the apex court struck and declared that the appointment of Jayalalithaa as chief minister was untenable, null and void. By that evening Jayalalithaa had handpicked Panneerselvam, who was a first time MLA and an acolyte of TTV Dhinakaran, one of the nephews of Sasikala. Both Sasikala and Jayalalithaa were confident that Panneerselvam would remain an eternal servile. He did not prove them wrong. Panneerselvam conducted himself as a most obedient servant and rushed to Raj Bhavan in Chennai to submit his resignation when Jayalalithaa was acquitted of all charges following her appeal challenging the special court verdict.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]P[/dropcap]anneerselvam was sworn in as chief minister for the second time in 2014 September when the Bangalore Special Court sentenced Jayalalithaa to four years imprisonment and a fine of Rs.100 crores in the disproportionate assets case filed by senior BJP leader Dr Subramanian Swamy. Panneerselvam was in the chair for almost seven months and vacated the chief minister’s chair immediately after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her of all charges.
When Jayalalithaa passed away on December 5, 2016, the AIADMK MLAs elected Panneerselvam as chief minister for the third time. There were many people in the State and elsewhere who believed that he would be third time lucky. But it has been proved that this former tea shop owner from Theni is destined to be an eternal Bharata. Since the day V K Sasikala, who made her entry into Veda Nilayam as a domestic aid of the then chief minister Jayalalithaa way back in 1980, was elected as the general secretary of the AIADMK, it was almost sure that the fate of poor Panneerselvam was sealed. A day after Sasikala took over as the general secretary of the party, most of the ministers, MPs, MLAs and district secretaries of the party were vying with one another to proclaim to the world about their unshakeable loyalty to her by asking her to take over the post of the chief minister. Thambi Durai, deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha wasted no time and penned down a letter in his official letter pad eulogising her as the embodiment of everything that is good and pleading with Chinnamma to “lead the State of Tamil Nadu” by accepting the post of chief minister. According to a senior AIADMK leader, Thambi Durai was killing two birds with a single letter. “He gave vent to his anger against Panneerselvam and ensured that Sasikala would appoint him as the deputy chief minister when she takes up the responsibility of the chief minister,” said the AIADMK leader.
With Sheela, Venkataramanan and Ramalingam bidding farewell to the chief minister’s office, the Jayalalithaa Era in Tamil Nadu politics has come to an end.
Panneerselvam became a lame duck chief minister since December 29 when Sasikala was appointed as the party general secretary. Even otherwise, colleagues in the cabinet paid scant respect to him as they all went to Veda Nilayam to get their daily orders from Chinnamma and her non-resident-husband Natarajan.
Late Thursday evening Sheela Balakrishnan was rang up by chief minister Panneerselvam and told about the directive from Veda Nilayam that she has been eased out. Sheela went to her office on Friday morning, collected her papers and bade farewell to the members in the chief minister’s office, her colleagues for the last five years. It was then that she saw K N Venkataramanan, and A Ramalingam her junior colleagues and secretaries to the chief minister waiting for her. They broke the news to her that they too were shown the door at the instance of Sasikala and Natarajan. With Sheela, Venkataramanan and Ramalingam bidding farewell to the chief minister’s office, the Jayalalithaa Era in Tamil Nadu politics has come to an end.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]hursday also saw Sasikala elevating some of the senior AIADMK functionaries who have been side-lined by Jayalalithaa. Those given a new lease of life include Saidai Doraisamy, the person responsible for the defeat of all the AIADMK candidates in Greater Chennai Metropolitan area in the May 2016 assembly election.
The Prime Minister and all senior functionaries of the BJP are busy campaigning in UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa. If the swearing in could be done now, it will be like a cocking a snook at the leaders in New Delhi.
Sasikala has convened a meeting of the AIADMK MLAs for Sunday morning at the party headquarters. Though labelled as an informal meeting to “devise strategies for the celebration of the birth anniversary of Jayalalithaa which falls on February 24,” the outcome is going to be highly critical.
Why this time? The elevation of Sasikala to the chief minister’s chair is a foregone conclusion. The Prime Minister and all senior functionaries of the BJP are busy campaigning in UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa. If the swearing in could be done now, it will be like a cocking a snook at the leaders in New Delhi.
The paradox is that in Ramayana, we had Lord Rama to take up the responsibility of the country. But in the modern day Ramayana, there is no Lord Rama as the hero. All we have is an eternal Bharata who will hand over the reigns of power to not Lord Rama but to a un-elected, un-proven entity. If Sasikala is sent to jail on the Disproportionate Assets case, Thambi Durai may insist on taking over the reins and after that, who knows which way the AIADMK will go?