The Madras High Court’s decision to uphold the disqualification of 18 AIADMK legislators loyal to rebel leader TTV Dhinakaran by the Assembly Speaker 13 months ago under the anti-defection law is a shot in the arm for the beleagurered government of Edapappadi K Palaniswamy. However, considering that despite this, the government has a razor-thin majority of two shows how precariously the government is perched and how easily it can be brought down.
Right since it assumed power, the Palaniswamy government has been plagued by fears that it could be forced to pack up in haste with Dhinakaran’s challenge hanging over its head like a Democles’ sword.
Dhinakaran’s clout and his penchant for manipulation are well known and it is hardly surprising that he instils a sense of apprehension in his opponents. He has the tacit backing of his crafty aunt Sasikala who is undergoing a four-year sentence in jail for misappropriation of funds.
Even after the disqualification of 18 legislators, Dhinakaran was able to wean away three other legislators who currently are loyal to him.
Justice Sathyanarayanan, who delivered judgment in the case, said there was no infirmity in the order of the Speaker P Dhanapal. “All the material that were available at the time of passing of the order by the Speaker alone have been taken into consideration and this court cannot go into the subsequent events,” he observed.
While Dhinakaran, despite his considerable money power, has no chance of coming to power even if he manages to displace Palaniswamy, his support can come in handy for the DMK in rocking the boat at an appropriate time. Dhinakaran’s flock of 18 now have a party label because he had named his party Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK).
Indeed, Dhinakaran, under Sasikala’s inspiration, is seeking to capitalise on Jayalalithaa’s name and garner votes as a loyalist of the former chief minister who had become a virtual cult figure until the setback to her reputation as a result of the conviction in the disproportionate assets case. However, the reality is that Jayalalithaa kept a distance from Dhinakaran and never trusted him.
The late Jayalalithaa had she been alive would have lamented how her legacy was belied by her closest associates—her closest friend Sasikala, and her two political lieutenants Palaniswamy and O Panneerselvan who have virtually forsaken her but for occasional lip service paid by them.
The DMK, which under patriarch Karunanidhi was a formidable rival to Jayalalithaa passed away a few months after her and the mantle has fallen on Stalin who will be tested in the next Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
Stalin and Dhinakaran can well topple the Palaniswamy government if they pull together but with the bitterness that characterised the AIADMK-DMK relationship they are both unsure how the electorate would react to their combination.
The hard reality is that Tamil Nadu has drifted after the demise of the stalwarts Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi. It is a picture of maladministration today and there is little guarantee that things will improve substantially if the DMK were to come to power.
Investment has virtually dried up and there is complete absence of a spirit of innovativeness. Cine actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan have so far belied expectations that they can pull the State back from the rut into which it has fallen.
The BJP has been a virtual non-starter in the State and though it is unconvinced that riding on AIADMK’s shoulders would be a good option, it has nowhere else to go. The Congress too is in utter disarray.
All in all, Tamil Nadu, which accounts for no less than 39 seats in the Lok Sabha is groping and it has lost the clout that it once enjoyed in national politics.