Not taking any chances
“After seeing the magnificent structure housing this Assembly complex I thought it would be appropriate to revive the upper house,” CM M Karunanidhi said defending his government’s eagerness to get a nod for the legislative council. With less than a year to go for the assembly election, the CM is in overdrive to complete all campaign promises made when his government got elected in 2006. Even if it looks likely that his government will be back, with the AIADMK cadre totally demoralized after losing 10 by-elections at a trot, the Kalaignar does not want to take any chances.
In fact, Jayalalitha stayed away from the Assembly when the proposal to revive the Council was voted in. So did another CM-aspirant Vijayakant. Whether it says both these worthies have given up the fight and therefore don’t care what happens in the state is a conclusion one can draw. Although with a succession war in the Karunanidhi clan where clearly the aspirant Azhagiri is going to be a stumbling block to the smooth succession of his brother and heir M K Stalin, the political scene could see dramatic changes.
Karunanidhi’s attempts to revive the council in 1989 and 1996 (when the DMK was in power) were nullified because Jayalalitha followed him as CM and undid whatever he did including his wish to see the council back. However, he feels he is on surer ground now that the AIADMK looks like a shadow of its former self and its cadre completely dejected after the Pennanagarm bypoll where its candidate even lost his deposit.
Why a Council now?
According to Karunanidhi, the Assembly is the heart and the Council is the brain. There are those who think whether it’s the assembly or the council, all that its members will do is waste public resources, so reviving the council will be just squandering money and of no benefit to citizens. In fact left party MLAs seem to think so. While the CPM opposed the reviving of the council, six members of the CPI walked out during the vote which was eventually carried 155 (DMK, Congress, PMK and VCK) to 61(AIADMK, MDMK and CPM).
Karunanidhi was irritated by CPI leader V Sivapunniam’s argument that a Council was unnecessary given the advancement of science. Frankly what one has got to with the other beats me but that’s what he said. Karunanidhi was not about to let such unreasonable arguments thwart him. He said tartly that left members had not carried their logic further and declined to become members of the Rajya Sabha. “If we give them tickets, they will become members of the proposed Upper House too,” he commented triumphantly as left members looked uncomfortable.
There is wide speculation in the political corridors on why Mr Karunanidhi has now suddenly chosen to revive the Council when his government is in its final year of tenure. The Upper House, if it happens, could be a ready retreat for those not getting party tickets in the 2011 Assembly elections.
An ego thing
Besides, this is an ego thing for the Kalaignar considering that former CM M G Ramachandran (popularly called MGR) abolished the legislative council back in 1986, only to thwart Karunaidhi, who had resigned as a legislator on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, and after a cooling off period tried to get back into the legislature through the legislative council.
It is also said that for MGR too it was an ego thing. When then actress Vennira Adai Nirmala, whom he had nominated to the Council, could not take her seat because she had declared insolvency, MGR reportedly chose to dissolve the 72 member Council. Of the 72 MLCs at that time, 24 were elected by the Assembly and 24 by the local bodies. Constituencies representing the graduates and the teachers elected six each. And finally, 12 members were nominated.
So, apart from keeping his flock happy, Kalaignar also wants to restore the council back to the state as a possible goodbye gift if he intends to go through with retirement that he claimed some months ago he was ready for. Then again with both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka reviving the Council in recent years, why not Tamil Nadu?
No “anbu” lost
When the DMK finally got fed up with the constant carping by the PMK’s leadership and divorced it in June 2008, patriarch M Karunanidhi was very gentle with the then union minister for health, Anbumani Ramadoss going so far as to say “Anbumani meedhu enakku anbu undu,” (I have affection for Anbumani).
It was the kind of literary flourish that Karunanidhi is known for. Since then the PMK has been reduced to a cipher in state politics and Anbumani is no longer lording it over a ministry. He has been keeping a very low profile only surfacing once to target a poster of Asal which shows actor Ajith smoking. But now that his Rajya Sabha term is soon coming to an end (five others will also end at the end of June), Anbumani, who was sent to the RS with the DMK’s help ( the PMK has only 18 MLAs, which makes it short by 16 MLAs to get a RS seat), is trying to worm his way into the patriarch’s affections.
“I have a soft corner for Kalaignar as and I know he has a soft corner for me,” he said recently. But somehow that pun on the word “anbu” (which means affection) sounded so false and needy. And audacious considering that just last month, the PMK fought a pitched battle with the DMK at Pennagaram and failed. Incidentally it came second.
But politics is the art of the possible. Although Anbumani claims he is not genuflecting before the DMK, reports are that he is. The DMK is his best bet with the AIADMK highly unlikely to accommodate him after PMK founder left the opportunistic alliance he forged with that party before the Lok Sabha alliance after badmouthing Jayalalitha. Besides the AIADMK with 59 MLAs can barely manage two seats (one on its own and one with support). So it has to be the DMK with 100 MLAs because it can get three seats. The Congress too is not going to accommodate Anbumani considering it can get only one seat.