June 21, 2021
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Udaykumar sounds more and more like Arvind Kejriwal, currently under fire from politicians for saying Parliament was full of “looters and rapists.”

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Chennai Corner

Hell Hath No Fury...

When Vijayakanth threw an open challenge to the CM in the assembly in February, he should have known it would come back to haunt him, particularly because he overestimated his own party’s strength and thought the DMDK could take on the “might” of amma in Sankarankoil assembly. Last week in the assembly finance minister, O. Panneerselvam, taunted Panruti Ramachandran from the DMDK who is also the deputy leader of the opposition. “Did you really get 12,000 votes? And does that include 10,000 votes of Marxists?” the minister asked, referring to the tie-up between the DMDK and the left parties.

“It is common for a small wave to be swallowed by a huge wave. It is not fair to criticise the DMDK over Sankarankoil bypoll results,” defended Panruti. If (and it’s a big IF) Vijayakanth had not indulged in talking big days before his candidate lost his deposit and came last, the AIADMK may not have behaved like such a bully. Besides, since taunting Vijayakant apparently will get you brownie points with amma, it’s open season for AIADMK MLAs. As former AIADMK MLA S.V. Shekar, who too got too big for his boots and baited Jayalalitha by cosying upto the DMK and consequently got shown the door by amma, says, “Competition can be between the first and the second but never between the first and last.”

It looks like Vijayakant’s humiliation is not over. AIADMK leaders openly spoke about splitting the DMDK, which has 29 MLAs, during the Sankarankoil campaign. And now that he has been humbled at the hustings, Vijayakanth is worried that it may not have been an empty threat. Rumours are rife that his party might seek the protection of the DMK to stave off poaching. Still, he’ll have to eat humble pie now, and even then chances are that he won’t get on amma’s good side because of their history of bad blood even before he decided to take on the CM on the floor of the assembly.

Kissa Kursi Ka

There is talk that Vijayakant will keep away from the assembly even after his 10-day suspension is over because he does not want to face amma after the drubbing his party got. Of course, if he chooses not to come he will be in good company – former CM Karunanidhi. Incidentally, DMK MLAs had written to Speaker D. Jayakumar to allot a seat for the octogenarian. The situation has arisen because DMK legislative leader Stalin and his deputy Duraimurugan have already been allotted the front row. Since, Karunanidhi cannot be expected to sit behind them, given his status and stature, and also because he moves around in a wheelchair, a request was made by the DMK MLAs. But so far he has not come.

Just as well because this week there was a debate about his pet projects. DMK MLA and former minister S. Duraimurugan pointed out that public money had been “wasted” because the Jayalalitha government had turned its back on the Anna Centenary Library and the Assembly-Secretariat. Jayalalitha, who wants to convert the library into a paediatric hospital and the assembly-secretariat into a super- speciality hospital, argued, “It is not proper to say that it is not being used by us since it is a DMK project.” She said, “Even during the DMK regime, only six of the 36 departments functioned from the new premises while the rest were located here (at Fort St. George). It is an incomplete structure, so much like any other DMK initiative.”

'Power'ful Demands

First the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) was stalled for six months when a people’s agitation led by S.P. Udaykumar, anti-nuclear activist, played out in a coastal village called Idinthakarai, a stone’s throw from the plant. The protesters went on hunger fasts and relay hunger fasts demanding that the plant be scrapped. CM Jayalalitha’s government did nothing except appoint committee after committee. But earlier this month, soon after the AIADMK won the assembly bypoll in Sanakarankoil, Jayalalitha announced that the plant would go ahead and even told the assembly that it would be ready in two months.

Now, to temper the wrath of the people as the state energy commission lurched towards its first steep power tariff hike (that former CM Karunanidhi termed “abnormal”, which was enough for Jayalalitha to partially rollback) for the first time in nine years, she has written to the PM demanding that TN be allocated all the 2000 mw that the two KKNPP units will produce. Earlier, she told the legislative assembly that KKNPP would be ready in two months. Interestingly KKNPP authorities have said it would be ready by August.

She has been called “greedy” by some in the context of the announcement last week, that TN will get 197 mw from the Simhadri Super Thermal Plant in Andhra Pradesh, which is the state’s share from the central pool. Jayalalitha’s explanation is that since “congestion in the transmission corridor” is clogging TN’s share, she is justified. She added, “May I also reiterate that we require and deserve this power.”

Her cue to make the demand seems to have come from union minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, V. Narayanasamy, who spearheaded the pro-KKNPP campaign, and was initially quoted as saying that the centre was ready to give the entire power generated by KKNPP, if such a request came from the state. After her letter to the PM, his stand is: “I will definitely pitch in and seek at least 1000 mw considering the power crisis in the state.” Now he says that the PM is aware of TN’s acute power crisis “and will definitely take a good decision.”

For the record, as per the original arrangement after the two units at KKNPP are commissioned, TN is supposed to get 925 mw, Karnataka 360 mw, Kerala 340 mw and Pondicherry 67 mw.

The Empire Strikes Back

Udaykumar sounds more and more like Arvind Kejriwal, currently under fire from politicians for saying Parliament was full of “looters and rapists.” Udaykumar too is on the wrong end of a combined assault of the state and centre’s might. After being asked this week to surrender his passport by the Madurai Regional Passport Officer, the anti-nuclear activist says defiantly that he will not comply. “Let the passport officials impound my passport. I will face the issue legally,” he says.

The passport officer’s justification is that Udaykumar has 98 criminal cases pending against him. “Several top politicians and a number of MPs too have corruption and criminal cases against them. Have their passports been impounded?” asks Udaykumar.

But the state is hitting back with all the resources at its command now that Udaykumar seems to be on a losing wicket although some fishermen from Idinthakarai, Katupuli, Perumanal and other coastal villages, the backbone of the six-month-long agitation, are standing by him. “Udayakumar has asked us to go fishing as a goodwill gesture. But we will not venture into the sea till all our arrested villagers are released,” a fisherman said. They are aggrieved that although the state promised that cases against 178 persons arrested on March 19 would be withdrawn, it has opposed bail for 30 of them.

Udaykumar is being targeted by the state ironically after he called off the nine-day hunger fast that he announced against Jayalalitha green-lighting KKNPP, and last week announced that fishermen would go back to the sea, children will go back to school and shops would open.

In fact, a day after he withdrew his fast, his house and office were raided by home ministry officials. That was followed by a raid by the CB-CID on two more NGOs who were accused by the home ministry of diverting funds for the agitation. Incidentally, Narayanswamy had told the Rajya Sabha recently that while the NGOs were getting foreign funding, the money trail does not lead to funds used for the agitation. To repeated questions from the elders, he had said that while the PM had very clearly said US and Scandinavian NGOs were sending money to agitators, “whether the same money is being used (to fund the protests) is not proved.” Mewnwhile, Udaykumar’s travails are multiplying.

Once An Entertainer...

Last week, union minister of state for social justice and empowerment, D. Napolean, was lured into singing at a High Learning Centre he inaugurated by another DMK union minister, M.K. Azhagiri. It is not clear why Azhagiri asked Napolean to serenade the audience but the actor-turned-minister was pleased because this was the first time he got in touch with his entertainer-side since joining the cabinet. He admitted that he had given up the grease paint since the PM asked him not to act in films after becoming a minister. “I requested him that I have three films pending and want to complete it.”

But he was nostalgic when asked to sing because, by his own admission, he has been cut off from his fans for a long time. He was only happy to oblige at Azhagiri’s request. He sang “Kizhakku Cheemayile” from his hit film ‘Seevalaperi Pandi”.

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