June 22, 2021
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Seemingly unmindful about possible new political alignments, Jayalalitha is looking ahead at a national role for herself. That’s not a secret...

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Chennai Corner

Enemy’s Enemy

This is the week when one would think CM Jayalalitha would worry about the alleged impromptu meeting between her old enemy, M.K. Stalin, and newly minted enemy, DMDK chief Vijayakant. The actor turned politician is still smarting over the tongue lashing he got from Jayalalitha in the assembly followed by large scale floor crossing by his supporters to the AIADMK, and is lashing back. So when he found that Stalin, like him, was waiting at Madurai airport, he went over for a chat. A source claims “both were comfortable and relaxed”. And what better way to reach out than thanking Stalin for the support Vijayakant got over his suspension from the assembly which even former CM Karunanidhi called “undemocratic”?

With the assembly bypoll coming up in Shankarankoil, it looks like Vijayakanth has already blown the bugle for a war with Jayalalitha. In the past, Vijayakant had shunned any alliance trying to position the DMDK as an alternative to both the DMK and AIADMK. But pragmatism kicked in and he aligned with the AIADMK – which both Jayalalitha and Vijayakant now claim they are “ashamed” of – and his party gained because it won 29 seats as opposed to one seat in the 2006 assembly and none in 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Vijayakant had targeted the DMK when it was in power, an attack that got more vicious after the alignment with the AIADMK. Now he is making common cause with the DMK because their common enemy is Jayalalitha. So will the bypoll see him siding with the DMK? But he should remember that luck ran out for the Pattali Makkal Katchi because it was jumping from the DMK’s side to AIADMK’d side and back.

Tracks to Delhi

Seemingly unmindful about possible new political alignments, Jayalalitha is looking ahead at a national role for herself. That’s not a secret. On the contrary, every opportunity she gets, she is dinning that into her partymen’s heads. For the third time (the first was at the AIADMK’s general council meeting on December 30, the second was at MGR’s 95th birth anniversary on January 17), this week, she has once again brought up her agenda to be PM.

So what she wants as a birthday (February 24) present is 40 Lok Sabha seats. “Emerging victorious in all the 40 seats in the Lok Sabha polls alone would be the matchless gift you could give me. Start work in right earnest to reap the fruits of victory.”

“Avoid extravaganza and grandeur. If you could help the needy, it would make the beneficiaries happy and encourage me even more,” she said. Where is she coming from? Of course, her predecessor Karunanidhi’s reign because extravaganzas and flaunting wealth and dripping diamonds by his family members was what it was about. She pointed out how the DMK’s pomp and show had disgusted people leading to its fall.

If she is looking for a halo, she has earned it, because in the last nine months, simplicity has marked her governance, at least overtly. “In these nine months of AIADMK rule, no extravagant function was held. Projects were inaugurated through video-conferencing. Taking a cue from this, you should observe my birthday as an occasion to support the indigent,” she appealed.

Virtue Out of Necessity?

Like her reign has been so far, shorn of glitter and glamour, she wants her birthday also to be shorn of extravaganzas. A bit like union minister, M K Azhagiri’s was this year where the razzmatazz and the long beeline of the who’s who were missing. The difference, of course, is that Azhagiri’s would never have been so low-key had the DMK been in power (remember the poster last year which called him CM – a clever play on his actual title Chemicals Minister?). But Jayalalitha, who had splashed out liberally (taxpayer’s money) for her foster son’s wedding and in fact is still fighting the disproportionate assets case – when the DVAC found 10,500 saris, 750 pairs of shoes among others at Poes Garden when they raided her in 1996 – after her first stint as CM, wants to follow the example of her mentor. MGR never celebrated his birthday nor met anyone on the day, Jayalalithaa told the cadre, and that is what she intends to do. “Please do not try to meet me on my birthday,” she said. Should one quibble about why she did not follow her mentor all these years?

Let’s not forget that it makes her look good in the disproportionate case to not be weighed down by garlands of notes (like Mayawati) or even roses. And let’s also not forget that Karnataka’s advocate general B V Acharya quit late last week saying that there was “pressure from the government” to toe its line on the disproportionate case against Jayalalitha for which he is the Special Public Prosecutor. A job he will continue to do, which should make Jayalalitha worry under the circumstances. And finally, let’s not forget that Karnataka has a BJP government and BJP leader L K Advani had described Jayalalitha as “our natural ally.”

The Green Way

Amma might be flaunting austerity instead of wealth this time but when it comes to sycophancy – let’s see how many departments give out full page ads hailing the “puratchi thalaivi” on her birthday – the CM is not so clear-cut apparently because evidence of that still comes in from time to time. For instance the former IT minister R B Udayakumar did not wear footwear because he “worshipped” her. But, to be fair, she was not impressed one whit by his obsequiousness because she dropped him from her council of ministers during one of her many reshuffles.

Tamil Nadu, which is still below the target of bringing one-third of the land under forest cover(its 21.78 per cent now), will see 64 lakh(Amma is going to turn 64) saplings across the state at a cost of Rs 29 crore, to be financed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB). Forest department principal secretary C V Shankar said that scientifically selected indigenous saplings will be planted. “About 29 species for public places and about 27 varieties for institutions have been identified, most of which will be supplied by the forest department,” said Shankar.

This is in addition to the target of 1,40,000 hectares over and above the existing green cover that is planned by the state for which Rs 686 crore has been earmarked.

A Test of Loyalty

From greening the state to please amma, meet P Raguraman, the AIADMK’s Coimbatore Students’ Wing Secretary, who has been trying to catch the CM’s eye for the last five years. For these years, he has been distributing free question banks to thousands of students in class 10 and 11 in government schools studying in the Tamil medium. He says there’s a method in his question banks. “For every subject, eight question banks are prepared by experts including four State and National Best Teacher awardees. Former student toppers also share tips on preparing for the exams,” the 36-year-old says. In addition, the question banks also contain an advisory on 150 career options. There are essays, including one by TN’s moon man, Mylswamy Annadurai, to inspire students on what career path to choose. Raghuraman also conducts mock board exams during which he provides lunch. So is it a publicity stunt to get amma’s attention? He says no. But whether Jayalalitha will notice him or not students who have benefited certainly do.

Take a Bow

It’s often said that it is the courts that are really running this country – look at the 2G scam. Would former telecom minister A Raja have been in jail for the last year if not for the judiciary? Here’s another example. The Madras High Court disposed off 2,36,837 cases in 2011 which works out to 4,833 cases per judge. The high court only has 49 judges although the sanctioned strength is 60 judges.

And that’s not all. Lower courts have disposed off 16.56 lakh cases last year and in fact, have overtaken the number of cases filed. And that means the pendency of cases has come down. Here are the numbers. While a total of 5,98,169 new civil and criminal cases were filed in the state, a record 16,56,290 cases were disposed of in 2011. As a result, the pendency of cases will come down by at least 58,121 - from 12,41,370 in 2010 to 11,83,249. “This is spectacular because for the past two years we are unable to augment the strength of subordinate judges(185 posts of civil judges are still lying vacant),” says a judge.

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