Amma Is Dead, Long Live Amma!
CHENNAI: The AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa, who made her way out of a serious and prolonged illness, died of a cardiac arrest. Her death was announced just after midnight by the Apollo Hospital, plunging her party and Tamil Nadu into deep mourning.
But the transition was quick and smooth, designed to keep alive her legacy. Jayalalithaa will continue in death, to exercise control over the functioning of the AIADMK although with time the ambitions and differences within the party will fuel divisions that will then need handling.
Amma’s close aide O. Panneerselvam who has been Chief Minister twice before was sworn in as the CM after the announcement of her death. He has been virtually running the government since September when Jayalalithaa was hospitalised, with her aides maintaining through the long weeks that her health was impacted after she was imprisoned in the disproportionate assets case in 2014 September.
Her trusted friend Sasikala is seen as the power by some, but not by all as from being perhaps the most powerful figure in the AIADMK after Jayalalithaa at one point in time, she lost much of the clout after the two fell out, albeit briefly. But clearly she is aware that power will need a post, and is reported to be looking at the general secretary’s post in the AIADMK.
However, party MP and Deputy Speaker in the Lok Sabha with considerable experience M.Thambidurai is also in the running being favoured by the Chief Minister and the BJP that has developed a good relationship with him through the Lok Sabha.
The AIADMK, keen to avoid any disturbance at this point, has ensured that the old Council of Ministers have taken a fresh oath along with the new CM. Both Delhi and Tamil Nadu will see closer cooperation between the BJP and the AIADMK for now, with the latter being keen to avoid any confrontation until the successors stabilise.
AIADMK is the third largest party in the Lok Sabha with 50MPs. It has been taking an issue by issue stance, for or against the central government. On demonetisation it remained aloof initially, but given the distress in the rural areas, came out against the government. However, without Amma’s leadership this protest has remained muted.
The first task before the new CM will be to maintain law and order as the mourners pour into the streets. And no matter how able Panneerselvam proves to be, AIADMK has lost a charismatic leader, a towering figure whose absence will be keenly felt by the party used to Amma’s hand.