June 22, 2021
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“Is he the same person— who you say has no fear— who has approached the high court for anticipatory bail?” asked Jayalalitha about Vijayakanth

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Chennai Corner

Broken Promises

Last May when CM Jayalalitha took over, she promised that she would clean up the power mess within three months. At the time the demand-supply gap was 3000 mw. Just last week, in a televised address on Jaya TV, the CM said load-shedding will ease in the state, which needs 12000 mw, by November-end. This week she pleaded with the people to “bear with me” because she intends to resolve the shortage by the end of next year. “You have waited so far. Wait for one more year, the state will manage 4,385 mw. It may not even take one year. Wait till June, 2013 and bear with me,” she told the assembly.

The demand-supply gap is at 4000 mw and bound to increase because power usage is going up, partly because her government is giving out more power-intensive appliances like grinders, mixers and fans. It’s a moot point whether people should believe her when she keeps on setting deadlines to ease the power situation and fails to keep them. And now of course the centre has added its own burden— by restricting gas cylinders to six a year— because it has encouraged people to buy induction stoves which work on electricity. So more consumption.

“We will achieve our goal. We have already moved past the worst days. Tamil Nadu will become a power-surplus state,” she said while her MLAs applauded. “We are fighting globally, not locally,” points out an entrepreneur Chandu Nair who refers to costs going up— some of them unintended (for instance, courier costs for the transportation of goods because they could not be made on time as a result of  poor power). And in the global market, an investor is going to be wary of TN and is not bothered about whether DMK caused the power crisis or the AIADMK.

Blame the DMK

If all else fails, blame the DMK. And that’s what Jayalalitha has been doing repeatedly.

For the record, the CM says that the DMK regime only added 206 mw of installed capacity between 2006 -2011. Had Karunanidhi's government carried on the projects initiated by her previous regime (2001-2006) with the same level of urgency, many would have been commissioned when he was in power, she claimns and accuses the former CM M. Karunanidhi of having “deliberately reduced” power generation so that he could “buy high cost power for selfish reasons.”

The DMK government’s failure to enter into Case-1 bidding with other states for power purchase and the centre’s failure to provide a transmission corridor exacerbated the problem. “The centre gives priority only to states that had secured Case-1 bidding,” she says. As per Case-1 bidding, a state would get power for the price at the time of agreement even after 10 years. According to Jayalalitha, the short-term power purchase agreements signed by the DMK government had caused enormous loss. In addition, although TN had signed purchase agreements with other states, it could get only 85 mw because of the non-availability of transmission corridor.

In contrast, during her first term(1991-1996), the capacity addition was 1,302 megawatt (MW) and in the second(2001-2006) , it was 2,518 MW. In that case how come there was load shedding even when Karunanidhi was in power?

Centre’s 'Betrayal'

Jayalalitha's litany of woes includes having to approach the Supreme Court since the state’s plea for allocation of 1,721 MW from Delhi between November 1 and March 31, 2013 was rejected. The centre’s 'betrayal' included not responding positively to her letter to the PM seeking the entire 1,000 mw to be produced in the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). The centre was also making it difficult to set up new power projects because on paper it was supplying only 80 per cent of the coal agreed through the Fuel Supply Agreement.“But what we receive is only 70 per cent from Coal India Ltd.” 

The Other Cyclone

Reflecting nature’s wrath that brought Cyclone Nilam to Mahabalipuram, outside Chennai, there was also a brewing cyclone in the DMDK. Four of the 29 DMDK MLAs are on their way to the AIADMK, which has been making strenuous efforts to break the party for several months now. The MLAs used the pretext that they were meeting the CM to seek her intervention for development schemes in their respective constituencies. Vijayakanth’s wife, Premalatha, jeered, “Those who have met the CM have gone there with a selfish motive, to make money and to protect themselves and not in the interest of people of their constituencies.”

It is hard to believe the sudden concern for the people who elected them. And confirmation that the MLAs are halfway towards becoming Amma-worshippers came in the form of the four MLAs— C Sundarajan (Madurai Central constituency), K. Tamil Azhagan (Tittagudi), C Arun Pandian (Peeravurani) and Michael Rayyappan (Radhapuram)— sitting separately in the ongoing brief session of the assembly. Naturally, they had to face sarcastic-comments and such-like from their erstwhile colleagues. Sundarajan complained to the speaker that he had been “intimidated” by DMDK MLAs B. Parthasarathy and K. Dinakaran. What’s the next step? Speaker P Dhanapal has referred his complaint to the Privileges Committee saying it was his “duty to protect members.”

The Climax

Vijayakanth, if he thought like a politician and knew that in politics one does not follow a script, should have known it was audacious on his part to take on the CM on the floor of the assembly. Now, she will not rest until she vanquishes his party and makes Vijayakanth lose his status as opposition leader. Most are not surprised by the way she operates. In 2001, she got DMK chief and former CM M Karunanidhi arrested. The opprobrium that that action brought her when she faced the wrath of the centre, media or judiciary has not softened her strategy. Vijayakanth still apparently thinks he is acting in films— that’s why his gestures and statements are over the top. They both have been butting heads right from the time Vijayakanth, albeit reluctantly, joined forces with her for the assembly elections last year. He now says he will script the climax. But methinks, amma has already done that.

Privilege Action

Vijayakanth’s letter to the Speaker this week that five more of his MLAs want to meet the CM was rejected. The next move was to hand the letter to the CMO. That too was thwarted. “As the officials refused to accept our letter, we have sent our request through registered post to her residence and secretariat,” said V C Chandrakumar, DMDK whip. 

While Cyclone Nilam was raging outside, Speaker P Dhanapal has discovered that the insistence by the five MLAs to hand over the letter seeking a meeting with amma was “politically motivated” and therefore tantamount to a breach of privilege. So not only will the MLAs not meet the CM but will face privilege action too.

We are Family

But the DMDK, like the PMK (which only promotes the Ramadoss family) has become a family enterprise. The decision makers are Vijayakanth, his wife Premalatha and her brother L. K. Suudeesh. Aware of the discomfort, Premalatha said at last week’s meeting, “Family members are not dominating the party. None of the family members was given a seat to contest in the Assembly election. Only those who had a long-term relationship with him (Vijayakanth) and those who had been with the (Vijayakanth) fan clubs were allowed to contest.”  But while outsiders were given tickets, like in the AIADMK— where only Jayalalitha is supreme— or DMK, the only people who count in the DMDK are from the family. Premalatha occupies no post but wields power and Sudheesh, who was hoping to get a Rajya Sabha ticket next July, is seeing his dream unravelling thanks to the dwindling strength of the party.

Party's Not Over

Vijayakanth has told the Madras high court that he “ was totally unaware of the happenings outside the airport,” while applying for anticipatory bail in connection with the alleged assault of a reporter, Balasubramanim, who has charged the DMDK chief of abusing and assaulting him because he pestered him for a reaction after four of his MLAs cosied upto CM Jayalalitha.

When party MLA K. Pandirajan spoke expansively about how Vijayakanth was a “braveheart” in the assembly, CM Jayalalitha was sarcastic, “Is he the same person— who you say has no fear— who has approached the high court for anticipatory bail?” Incidentally, another of his party MLAs, Anagai Murugesan, who was allegedly involved in the assault of the reporter, has been arrested.

Incidentally, during the assembly elections, Murugesan was himself beaten up by an angry Vijayakanth, because the mike did not work! As Vijayakanth began his address, the mike didn't work and two other mikes given to him as replacements also failed to work. Murugesan, the candidate from Chengalpattu for whom Vijayakanth was campaigning, bore the brunt of his chief’s ire because he was also the district secretary and had made shoddy arrangements.

Is the party that showed so much promise when it was launched in 2006 dissipating? Time will tell. However, a party member is optimistic: “We opened our account in the Assembly with a single seat, and our strength grew to 29 within a short span. We could secure 8.33 per cent votes even when we went alone. A couple of people turning against our leader will not make any impact as he has single-handedly built the organisation.”

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