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State of flux

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The dramatic revolt by caretaker Chief Minister and party veteran O Panneerselvam against general secretary and chosen successor to him V K Sasikala has electrified the political atmosphere in Tamilnadu and opened a Pandora's box in the ruling AIADMK. A no-holds-barred battle now lies ahead with various twists and turns adding to the drama.

With the party legislators having already endorsed Sasikala as the new chief minister unanimously, she seems to have an edge in the chief ministerial stakes as of now. But Sasikala's path is strewn with huge roadblocks which could well queer her pitch.

Evidently, Sasikala committed the grave miscalculation of treating Panneerselvam as a virtual doormat. Unexpectedly, Panneerselvam showed that his loyalty was only to 'Amma', and he was not devoid of ambition. His assertion now that he was forced to resign as chief minister to make way for Sasikala is the reaction of a man who was deeply hurt by the impudence of Sasikala and her supporters.

Panneerselvam, who characteristically kept his cards close to his chest, chose an effective way to confront Sasikala. His meditative dharna at Jayalalithaa's memorial Tuesday night followed by a media conference in which he bared the intrigues of Sasikala and exposed the manipulative politics has captured the mind space of the common man and of party cadres.

It fuelled fresh doubts in the minds of people whether Jayalalalithaa's death was indeed triggered, as is being alleged in some circles. Also, while the AIADMK legislators seem arrayed in favour of Sasikala, the mood among party rank and file looks different. OPS seems to have struck a chord with them.

As it stands, elections to the State Assembly are over four years away. For most legislators, it may be a case of practical expediency. So with Sasikala or OPS, they would want elections kept at bay.

If Panneerselvam is still in with a chance to upstage Sasikala it is because a Supreme Court judgement in a disproportionate assets case is hanging over her head. If Sasikala is indeed found guilty, she would be debarred from contesting elections and would have to relinquish office straightaway. There would then be no takers for her within the party as ministers and legislators would switch loyalties to Panneerselvam who would predictably emerge as a rallying force for them.

If, however, Sasikala wins the case, it would be difficult to stop her from growing from strength to strength. There would be another possible roadblock in the shape of the constitutional requirement for her to be elected to the State Assembly within six months of her assumption of office as chief minister. If she wins acquittal in the disproportionate assets case in which she was impleaded along with the late Jayalalithaa, there would still be a couple of other cases for Sasikala to pass through, but her immediate crisis would have been averted.

Elsewhere, DMK may be smelling an opportunity. It may not outwardly engineer a split in the AIADMK, but will do its bit to precipitate a crisis there and see what it can take advantage of. Panneerselvam seems to have the covert backing of the DMK and the blessings of the BJP, but sooner than later, he would need to take a call on who he goes with as an ally

Panneerselvam would indeed have to reckon with the possibility that any close association with the DMK could boomerang on him because the AIADMK cadres may see in it the negation of Jayalalithaa's legacy.

Essentially, the Panneerselvam faction would have to draw its strength from within the AIADMK which may not be difficult to garner if the Supreme Court finds Sasikala guilty of amassing disproportionate assets. The next few days would, therefore, be vital for Panneerselvam. Predictably, a lot of dirty linen would be washed in public in the ensuing days as the battle between Panneerselvam and Sasikala picks up pace and ferocity.

The charge of power hunger can hardly stick against Panneerselvam because of the way he passed on the mantle back to Jayalalithaa twice when he held power in trust for her when she was unseated in court cases. The same cannot be said of Sasikala because of the haste with which she manipulated her assumption of power so soon after Amma's death.

Panneerselvam has told the media that he is setting up an independent panel headed by a Supreme Court judge to go into the circumstances that led to Jayalalithaa's sad demise. If that or any other credible revelations show Sasikala in poor light, she may have to pay dearly for that.

All in all, contentious times lie ahead in which the role of Governor Vidyasagar Rao could also be vital. If large-scale defections from Sasikala's camp to the Panneerselvam faction occur and there is a state of flux, there may be no option but to impose President's rule and to keep the Assembly in suspended animation. It is a situation that is suffused with dramatic possibilities. Tamilnadu politics is never short of them anyway. 

(Follow us on Twitter @NTChennai, FB page News Today)


Tricky wicket

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The appointment of four administrators by the Supreme Court to run the affairs of the Indian cricket board (BCCI) has evoked a mixed response but, in general, the reception is positive. The reason for this is obvious — BCCI’s former officials had tried their best to cling on to their ‘honorary’ positions, attempting till the last moment to defy the Supreme Court. They continue to tout BCCI’s ‘autonomous’ status which, essentially, is based on the fact that BCCI has hundreds, if not thousands, of crores of rupees. After BCCI’s top brass was removed by the Supreme Court last month, it was only a matter of time before a set of administrators was appointed.

Questions have been raised over the ability of the four administrators to govern cricket. Are accountants and historians going to run cricket now, ask the doubters. This question is best answered with another question — how were small-time businessmen, politicians, shopkeepers and bureaucrats better qualified to run cricket? And, in sharp contrast to the previous set of officials, the four administrators appointed by the Supreme Court are known for their integrity.

Finally, the four administrators have been appointed only to ensure that the Supreme Court's 2 January verdict is implemented — they are duty-bound to pave the way for elections and elected officials. The Supreme Court had ruled last year that running cricket in India is a public function. This blasted away the former officials' contention that BCCI is an autonomous body that can’t be held accountable to anyone. BCCI’s former officials are themselves responsible for their fate — they did not act when evidence of corruption in State associations (Goa, Hyderabad and Delhi, for instance) or IPL (2013 betting and spot-fixing scandal) came up. They forced the Supreme Court’s hand.

The four administrators have a difficult job to perform, for the former officials and their sidekicks are likely to create problems for them. They need all the luck and support of the Supreme Court. And they also need to understand that when representing India at the ICC, things become totally different. And not all that the BCCI did at the ICC was not wrong. Some historical discrepancies had to be undone, and for that BCCI had to flaunt its financial weight. There is lot of nuance involved. The new BCCI Team will do well to appreciate that and assert India's rights at the ICC and not fritter away the newly-acquired edge. Alas, the latest ICC meeting held at Dubai didn't go well to India's liking. Only time can answer on how much the other powers in the ICC will use the opening they have gotten to push down the BCCI, whose rise and power wasn't appreciated by all.

(Follow us on Twitter @NTChennai, FB page News Today)



Today's E-Paper


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