POLITICS

Jayalalithaa Hits A Century, But The Chennai Super Queen Will Need To Build Her Innings Carefully

The AIADMK government completed 100 days in power today.

31/08/2016 4:27 PM IST | Updated 31/08/2016 5:01 PM IST
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A party cadre prostrates himself at the feet of AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa in Chennai in May 2016. ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images.

N. Srinivasan's brainchild, the Tamil Nadu Premier League, is catching eyeballs no doubt, but the batswoman who matters, playing in the Tamil Nadu Political League, has hit the first century of the 2016 season. To mark the occasion, 'Amma' arrived in all homes in Tamil Nadu today, occupying the front page of all newspapers.

Not that Jayalalithaa's staying power at the crease or scoring ability was ever in doubt. Soon after she reached the three-figure mark — her first 100 days in this term as chief minister — she publicised just about every decision she had taken during her innings so far.

Among other things, it included cutting down on the availability of alcohol, reducing the number of hours liquor shops would stay open, and shutting down 500 outlets. Prohibition, you would remember, was the major poll issue in Tamil Nadu, with all other parties promising total prohibition if they came to power.

Brand Amma continues to be Jayalalithaa's calling card. The latest promise is to open 500 Amma gyms and 500 Amma parks across Tamil Nadu. The chief minister realises that to push Team DMK out of the competition, she will need to ensure even her 'selectors' stay fit.

But the ink in the ads had not even dried up when the Election Commission arrived to play party pooper. It censured Jayalalithaa and her party for violating the Model Code during the assembly polls, pointing out that its manifesto gave no rationale to meet the financial requirement for fulfilling promises such as free distribution of washing machines. The show-cause notice was, in fact, issued just before polling day to both the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the order, coming more than three months later, is hardly likely to make the triumphant AIADMK turn a new leaf.

Brand Amma continues to be Jayalalithaa's calling card. The latest promise is to open 500 Amma gyms and 500 Amma parks across Tamil Nadu. The chief minister realises that to push Team DMK out of the competition, she will need to ensure even her 'selectors' stay fit.

Despite making Karunanidhi to follow on, just like her mentor MGR did in 1984, Jayalalithaa has faced quite a hostile attack in her second innings on the trot. Not used to playing on a pitch with the opposition in such large numbers, the AIADMK has resorted to what many describe as impatience and high-handedness. The assembly speaker, P. Dhanapal, who was elected on an AIADMK ticket, ordered that the opposition DMK legislators be bundled out of the House and even banned anyone from referring to the chief minister by name inside the Assembly.

The Amma-fication of the Tamil Nadu assembly was complete. Just like this idol of Mother Mary (picture below) at a church in Chennai was Amma-fied by an overzealous AIADMK cadre, draping it with a saree with the party symbol of two leaves. Clearly, in Amma-land, Mother Mary has to be Amma Mary.

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But where Jayalalithaa got flummoxed by a googly was when her own party MP, Sasikala Pushpa, refused to be dropped from the team. She protested in Parliament, alleging assault by her leader. Jayalalithaa promptly threw her out of Team AIADMK but the damage had been done. In a party where sycophancy is the only virtue that matters, Pushpa had gone against the AIADMK dharma. But the banner of revolt is an indication that in the evolution of mankind and womankind within the AIADMK, a politico-biological transformation — the growth of a spine — is taking place. That is not good news for the manner in which the party is controlled and run.

The other setback came via the Supreme court which asked Jayalalithaa to desist from using defamation cases as a tool to bully her political opponents and the media. In the 2011-16 term, Jaya and her government had filed as many as 213 cases, mainly against the DMDK, DMK and the media. In some cases, even news anchors reading out a negative news story found themselves slapped with a defamation case. With the apex court giving her a rap on the knuckles, Jayalalithaa will have to temper her approach to political criticism.

In a party where sycophancy is the only virtue that matters, Pushpa had gone against the AIADMK dharma. But the banner of revolt is an indication that in the evolution of mankind and womankind in the AIADMK, a politico-biological transformation — the growth of a spine — is taking place.

Her team has lost one wicket — Milk and Dairy Development Minister S.P. Shanmuganathan has been shown the door for reasons best known to the captain. Whether the axing was because of non-performance or allegations of corruption or any other misdemeanour, one will never know. Cabinet reshuffles to drop a minister or two and inducting greenhorns are typical of Jayalalithaa's style of functioning and keeps every AIADMK-ian on his/her toes.

The new player in whites is businessman 'Mafoi' Pandiarajan. Having run an HR firm before entering politics, Pandiarajan ought to be good at handling people. For now, he gets to handle younger human resources, having been put in charge of school education and sports.

Jayalalithaa has reached a milestone and her party would like to rejoice. But the 100 days, which otherwise should have been a honeymoon period with the electorate, have been a realisation that the Chennai Super Queen will have to put her head down and look to work the ball around for ones and twos instead of indulging in tracer-bullet-like fancy pinch-hitting.

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