Why warring AIADMK factions want a piece of Jayalalithaa's soul

Move will also ensure Sasikala cannot try to grab the general secretary's post later as it will be seen as replacing Jayalalithaa.

 |  4-minute read |   13-09-2017
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"And she lived in our hearts ever after."

It could not be more true of the AIADMK members who have given Jayalalithaa a place not just in their hearts and party banners but in the party hierarchy as well. Jayalalithaa will be the eternal general secretary of the AIADMK, almost elevated to the status of a deity.

With all decisions of the general council subject to scrutiny by the Madras High court and the Election Commission, one wonders how the two bodies will react to a person who is not alive, "heading" a political party.

I suspect this is O Panneerselvam's brainchild. After all, the present deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam sat at Jayalalithaa's samadhi on the night of February 7 and claimed that his conscience had been prodded by Amma's soul during the 40 minute-long meditation session.

One was led to believe that it was following that 9pm Amma's soul to Panneerselvam's mind messaging that he revolted against Sasikala. If his political stock and stature has risen in the public eye, it is because he reportedly experienced the eternity of Jayalalithaa's being, by the seashore at the Marina. Prior to February, he was treated no more than a nightwatchman who would occupy the crease till his boss was ready to pad up again.

The opposite camp worried that OPS was laying exclusive claim to Jayalalithaa's soul, claimed copyright as well and said, "Amma's soul will not forgive Panneerselvam for trying to split the party."

The AIADMK has always evoked an out of this world feeling. It would do things that no other political party in India did. Truly, a hatke (different) party. When Jayalalithaa was around, her party spokesperson CR Saraswathi used to describe the AIADMK as a "military force party" in which only one person mattered. Prostrating before Jayalalithaa was part of the AIADMK curriculum.

ops690_091317021301.jpgO Panneerselvam at Jayalalithaa's samadhi on the night of February 7.

 The deification showed even in the manner in which the seating arrangement during the election campaign. Jayalalithaa would be on the top deck with all the candidates, sometimes some 40-odd of them from an entire region, seated a level below. Not one of them would murmur in protest at not being treated as an equal.

Tuesday's decision to confer on Jayalalithaa this unique position shows nothing has changed since December 5, 2016. Jayalalithaa continues to be the only person who matters in the AIADMK. The plan is that the present crop of leaders, political pygmies in comparison, would take decisions in her name, giving themselves political legitimacy.

Using the late Jayalalithaa for political benefit isn't new to the AIADMK. During the campaign for the RK Nagar byelection, the OPS camp canvassed with a dummy of Jayalalithaa's coffin. Showcasing the dead party chief as propaganda tool was in very bad taste and the party had to withdraw it after severe criticism.

The surprise element has always been part of the AIADMK package. It started in 1967, even before the party was born when MG Ramachandran, the founder of the party was still in the DMK. In January 1967, MGR was reportedly shot at by fellow film actor MR Radha following an argument which meant he had to be hospitalised.

MGR won the election from St Thomas Mount constituency with just one photograph of him with his neck in a bandage, serving as campaign material. The journey from a hospital bed to Fort St George, was the starting point of MGR, the political legend.

jaya1690_091317021530.jpgJayalalithaa would always sit on the top deck.

Again in 1984, MGR was admitted to hospital in the US and won the election despite the AIADMK chief not campaigning for the party. It shows the party feels the people of Tamil Nadu are used to the top leaders of the AIADMK not being physically present.

What does "Jayalalithaa watching AIADMK from above" mean for the party? Scratch the surface and you will realise it is hard bargaining at the time of merger talks that has led to Jayalalithaa being chosen as a compromise general secretary candidate. With both OPS and EPS adamant on being party chief, it was decided that the top job will no longer be called general secretary. The nomenclature was changed to party convener/coordinator and deputy convener/coordintor. All the powers of the general secretary are now vested in OPS and EPS but the "Ram and Laxman of the AIADMK" as the duo is being referred to, will maintain for public posturing that Amma is AIADMK and AIADMK is Amma.

It also ensures Sasikala at a later date cannot try to grab the general secretary's post either as it will be seen as replacing Jayalalithaa and go against the sentiment of the party cadre.

With criticism that the AIADMK is a pale shadow of the outfit that Jayalalithaa controlled, the effort is now to brand it once again as Amma's party. OPS and EPS will hope that "Amma returns" will ensure the enigma around Jayalalithaa will continue and reap in rich political dividends.

Also read: Gauri Lankesh's murder left me cold: A new evil challenges Indian Constitution today


TS Sudhir TS Sudhir @iamtssudhir

The writer is a journalist.

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