Having seen three chief ministers in the span of a year, the AIADMK regime has gone through major political upheaval
Chennai: A year ago, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) under J. Jayalalithaa retained power in the assembly elections, the first time in three decades an incumbent government in Tamil Nadu managed to do so. Come 2017, and the scene isn’t pretty.
While Jayalalithaa’s returning to power was akin to AIADMK’s achievement under M. G. Ramamchandran (MGR) in 1984, the crisis that broke out within the party after her demise on 5 December had parallels with the crisis in 1988-89 when MGR died.
With three chief ministers in the span of a year, the AIADMK government has gone through an upheaval, and the period could easily be termed the party’s most crucial 365 days.
After serving for four months as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa was hospitalized on 22 September last year. As secrecy shrouded Jayalalithaa’s hospitalization and with mounting pressure from the opposition parties over governance issues in the state, all her portfolios were handed over to O. Panneerselvam in October.
While Panneerselvam was sworn in as the CM immediately after Jayalalithaa’s death, V.K. Sasikala’s ambitions to take over the party and become the head of the state did not go well within the rank and file of the AIADMK. Panneerselvam resigned as CM, only to come out strongly against her.
While AIADMK was battling with a seemingly dormant power tussle, Panneerselvam’s claim that he was “forced to resign from the chief minister’s post" triggered more political confusion in February.
As Sasikala’s hopes to rule the state were crushed after the Supreme Court upheld her conviction in a disproportionate assets case, her nephew T.T.V. Dhinakaran, who was a stand-in to head the party, is currently lodged in Tihar jail on accusations of trying to bribe Election Commission officials for the party “two leaves" symbol for the RK Nagar bypolls.
As Edappadi K. Palaniswami was sworn in as chief minister in February, the party split into AIADMK (Amma) and AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma), but Palaniswami government won the trust vote as the state assembly witnessed its first floor test in 30 years, marred by pandemonium.
Even as political turmoil mounted, the year witnessed the state grappling with several issues like the worst drought in 140 years, Vardah cyclone and a slew of protests against the ban on Jallikattu, against the Centre’s hydrocarbon project and farmers’ protest.
Amid AIADMK’s infighting, a series of income tax raids—at the residences of then chief secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao, within the state secretariat, at the properties of health minister C. Vijaya Baskar—and cancellation of RK Nagar bypolls after allegations of large-scale cash distribution added to the embarrassment of the ruling party.
Meanwhile, there are accusations that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to gain “backdoor" entry in the power corridors of Tamil Nadu by capitalizing on AIADMK’s woes. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s working president and opposition leader M.K. Stalin alleged that the BJP government was behind the “selective raids and arrests against one faction of AIADMK" and said that the Prime Minister should stop his party from using agencies like income tax for “politics".
As criticism grows over the paralysis of government in the state, the chief minister has been launching a bunch of schemes in the last two months in an attempt to assure the people that things are on track.
If the AIADMK had to battle its internal crisis, what is more worrying is finance minister D. Jayakumar’s claims during budget presentation that the net outstanding debt of the state government would rise to Rs3.14 trillion and revenue deficit is estimated at Rs15,930 crore for the financial year 2017-18.