Uncertain future of AIADMK
Tamil Nadu remains mired in political chaos, into the sixth month since the death of AIADMK Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who had scripted victory for a second successive term in the May 2016 Assembly election, and was sworn on May 23 last year.
The party has now a tenuous hold on power, led by E Palaniswami, with an active dissident group headed by O Panneerselvam, former CM, and the two factions, engaged in a no holds barred fight, have already been cultivating relationships with the BJP Government at the Centre.
Their mutual antagonisms could well endanger the future of 'Amma's' AIADMK, with her charisma keeping her party the more dominant of the two Dravidian majors, which alternately ruled the state for last five decades.
Ailing Karunanidhi's DMK, worsted by Jayalalithaa, waits for a propitious moment to step into the breach but the cycle of happenings in Tamil Nadu - one of the most indebted and drought-hit states - deprived of effective governance, takes strange turns.
After successive meetings of faction leaders (MLAs and MPs) with Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi, it would appear that both sides would perhaps unwittingly let him and BJP leadership determine the future course of developments in Tamil Nadu, one of the primary targeted states for BJP's aggrandisement.
For one thing, CBI and tax raids and searches have come handy for the Centre to deploy against political adversaries. The Palaniswami Government, one of whose Ministers had his residence searched by tax authorities and seizing a large sum of cash allegedly intended for distribution to voters in bypoll, since deferred, has become warier of the Big Brother in New Delhi.
While the Chief Minister, challenged by the leader of DMK opposition leader M K Stalin to reconvene the Assembly for budget votes, keeps trying to weather storms now and then and building working relations with Central Ministries on individual projects and GST, Palaniswami is aware of more turbulences ahead.
He has still to get hold of the AIADMK organisation still nominally in the hands of jailed Sasikala followers. Panneerselvam, with the support of 11 MLAs and several MPs, will not settle for anything less than the expulsion of Sasikala and her backers but unmistakably he would like to replace Palaniswami at the head of Government.
A "ginger group" in the ruling faction has also emerged and urged a meeting of party MLAs (122 so far in support of this Government) to bring about clarity in the functioning of the AIADMK (Amma) and policy matters.
Into this disorderly firmament, TN superstar Rajnikanth seems to be getting ready for an ill-defined political role. He noted political system in Tamil Nadu was 'rotten" though he named a few as "able". Days back, he asked his swarming "fans" to be ready "when the war comes", and if and when he entered politics, he would keep away those who are "money-minded and power-hungry".
As if anticipating some little trouble from quarters which would question his Tamil origin, the 67-year old star, having lived 23 years in Karnataka, declared himself to be a "Patchai Tamizhan" (true Tamil), who has been living for the past 44 years in Chennai - the base from where he built all his cinematic fame and made wealth.
He might not, therefore, have been surprised when some workers of a fringe outfit, "Tamilar Munnetra Padai", dubbing him as a Kannadiga who should "stay away from politics" in Tamil Nadu, held a protest and burned an effigy near his residence. Security at the home of the superstar has now been tightened. Tit for tat, Rajni's supporters organised a protest against this outfit in the South (Madurai).
The prospect of Rajnikanth seriously entering TN politics, though hinted by him in the past, has enthused lakhs of his fans but there is little to suggest where his inclinations are at present, after years of his voicing this or that politicians. Immediate positive reactions have been flowing from BJP Ministers at the Centre and leading cadres in Tamil Nadu.
Both AIADMK factions have moved closer to BJP, whether for political or administrative reasons, so much so that Panneerselvam, after meeting the Prime Minister indicated the possibility of alliance with BJP in the long-deferred Tamil Nadu civic polls which should take place within a few months One would hope the factions do not overlook who and what made AIADMK.
For Amit Shah, President of BJP, it would be welcome if Rajnikanth decides to enter politics, but it would be up to him to make a choice and BJP doors are always open for him. Senior BJP Ministers have referred to the superstar's close association with the Prime Minister, and they noted his broad support base in the State, which would add strength to the party in the State.
BJP has been trying over the last decade to build a political space for itself but without success. Given his perceived leanings toward the saffron party, some of the political observers consider it likely that the superstar might provide the public face for the party desperately trying to entrench itself in Tamil Nadu.
But, other observers feel that Rajnikanth would not let his individual identity get submerged and may float his own party. There are no reactions from either of the two AIADMK factions or anything speculative from Stalin. In the past, Rajnikanth had once spoken out against Jayalalithaa (l996) but later patched up, and he distanced himself from politics.
Surely, if Rajnikanth takes a plunge, seeking to change a murky scene, it could mean a significant challenge to the bipolar Dravidian political order that has prevailed for decades; with all its credits (social empowerment and overall development) on one side and the abhorrence that corruption and other evils were built into the system, on the other.