One year on, the fight for Jayalalithaa's legacy rages
By-poll in Amma's RK Nagar constituency could decide who the real winner is.
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Officially, a year has passed since the beloved Amma, protector of the poor and the guardian of Tamil Nadu died. Corruption charges and convictions aside, (yes, right or wrong the people of Tamil Nadu don't care about it) she was protector of the state.
She was one of the last barriers for the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah juggernaut. With Amma in power, schemes such as GST and NEET, over which people saw red were kept at bay or used as bargaining chips for the greater good of the state. It has been a year since she is gone and a belief has spread in Tamil Nadu that the BJP is ruling the state through proxy.
Her legacy is not merely a range of films or corruption charges or fluctuating electoral fortunes. It is a legacy of doing good for the people of the state. She may have been corrupt, but people in Tamil Nadu had come to love her so much because they saw in her a real leader.
Her true power can be assessed by the massive power struggle that is continuing till date. Without going into listing all well-known and well-documented events in detail, here's a quick recap of some major developments.
O Panneerselvam was nominated chief minister of the state by Sasikala, Jayalalithaa's friend according to some, her heir according to others and merely her servant according to some. Soon though, with the Jallikattu protest going in favour of OPS, Sasikala got insecure. She felt that his influence in the party was growing and threw him out seeking the top post for herself.
Then Tamil Nadu governor C Vidyasagar Rao decided to wait till the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict in the corruption cases against her, which led Sasikala right into Agraharam prison. She did not go without a fight though.
Sasikala placed her nephew, the charismatic, TTV Dhinakaran, in the second top post of the party and Edappadi Palanisamy in the top post of the government. But she could control neither of them. EPS saw this as an opportunity of a lifetime and took control ruffling TTV's feathers.
OPS, meanwhile, chose to meditate and invoked the soul of Amma into breaking the party. The move turned out to be a failure as he failed to gain much traction. He is believed to enjoy the backing of BJP, which is probably the reason why OPS and MLAs backing him were not disqualified for voting against chief minister EPS's government.
He also got the legendary two-leaves party symbol. With the income tax department working overtime conducting multiple raids on leaders such as health minister Vijayabaskar and TTV, the power balance in the party has completely shifted. The OPS-EPS faction has emerged as the true AIADMK with the two-leaves symbol leaving TTV as a leader without a party.
RK Nagar by-election
This power struggle has made the RK Nagar by-election the most important inconsequential election ever. RK Nagar had been Jayalalithaa's constituency. This could well offer a climax to the power struggle that has gone on for over a year now.
There is too much at stake in this December 21 election to a single seat for all parties concerned. Within AIADMK, the delay in announcing Madhusudhanan's candidature was seen as a result of the power struggle between OPS and EPS. The delay could ruin his winning chances.
TTV, who is contesting as an independent candidate, could win back supporters and possibly gain control of the party. After all, money is still on his side despite all the raids. Money is a key player in TN elections for the uninformed.
DMK is playing it safe by fielding N Marudhu Ganesh on the seat. However, in a masterstroke, MK Stalin went all out to garner the support of other players like VCK, communists and MDMK. This would not only be a game changer for the constituency but also the upcoming state and national elections in 2019 - a mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) of sorts. They are the favourites to win this election as people are tired of the games being played in their beloved Amma's party.
There are voters who are tired of DMK as well as AIADMK. Their votes could be decisive. BJP, Naam Tamizhar, actor Vishal, director Ameer and a few other independents are looking to make a mark in the polls.
Actor Vishal could be a factor here considering that he is the only actor in the state who has put his money where his mouth is. He can also bring in his numerous friends from the industry to the campaign. While it does not always work, it can work here considering the fact that people see this as an unimportant election and could vote for a change from the two parties. For Ameer, BJP and the rest of them, it is an open game.
Who will be the real winner?
Among the parties, whoever gets more votes between OPS-EPS and TTV, will stake a claim to Amma's legacy. If Madhusudhanan were to lose by a big margin, EPS might use it to strengthen his hold over OPS in the party. If DMK wins, it will use this as a validation for people being dissatisfied with the ruling party as well as the government. For actor Vishal, every single vote he gets is a victory considering this is his political debut. BJP, Naam Tamizhar and the independents are not expected to win. The real losers will be the people and the legacy of Amma.