Palaniswami gets a reprieve

Justice Sathyanarayanan has upheld the disqualification of eighteen AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to Sasikala, the jailed former aide of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha. This gives a reprieve to Chief Minister E. K. Palaniswami to continue in power. If the disqualification had been struck down, the Palaniswami Government would have been reduced to a minority. Sasikala, it may be recalled, had claimed the mantle of her menor Jayalalithaa and staked claim for chief ministership. But her dream was shattered as a court found her guilty of corruption and sentenced her to four years’ imprisonment. Her nephew TTV Dinakaran floated a new party, the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) in March. The revolt of the legislators owing allegiance to her and their disqualification by the Speaker came as a shot in the arms for Dinakaran.
The upholding of the disqualification is a setback for Dinakaran. As the next assembly elections in Tamil Nadu are due in 2021, it is likely that bye-elections will be held in the constituencies from which the disqualified legislators were elected. That will be the first test of the popularity of Dinakaran’s party. Meanwhile, the DMK under the leadership of the late Karunanidhi’s son M. K. Stalin is making a serious bid to dislodge its rival AIADMK and come back to power. Stalin has established his unquestioned leadership in the party. His brother Alagiri has practically faded away.  Meanwhile, Tamil superstar Tajnikath has entered the State’s politics and announced his intention to float a political party.
While it is too early to speculate on the impact that these developments will make on the next assembly elections, but with Jayalalithaa gone and the AIADMK having failed to come up with a new leader having even half the charisma and popularity of Jaya, the electoral balance seems to be tilted against the AIADMK. The BJP has practically no base in the South except Karnataka/ So the Tamil people are likely to vote for one or the other of the two Tamil parties. Sasikala’s – and by extension Dinakaran’s – claim to the legacy of Jaya will be put to a severe test. Stalin has a good equation with the Congress and a possibility of two fighting together cannot be ruled out. If by-elections are held to fill up the vacancies caused by the disqualified legislators, it will give an indication of which way the political wind is blowing in Tamil Nadu.

Sunday, 28 October, 2018