“When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes,” penned William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. The cyclone Vardah hitting the Tamil Nadu coast on December 12, exactly a week after the death of AIADMK supremo and chief minister, J.Jayalalithaa signifies the truth contained in the prophetic lines.
Rarely one finds masses worshipping their leaders as Gods, the way Jayalalithaa, who had achieved a cult figure was deified. She had the stature, the clout and the charisma to provide purpose to the Government. The vacuum created by her death is likely to push Tamil Nadu and Dravidian politics into an era of turbulence. The question mark on every lip is what after Amma?
All through her life, she remained committed to the Dravadian values. She personified the Tamil cult as she had an inexplicable hold over the masses, especially the women. Masses saw her as “Amma”, a friend and a protector who was central to her party. Little doubt that it seems uncertain that the party without her would be able to retain its unity.
One can find murmurs on social media with rumours doing the rounds that “Chinna-Amma” Sasikala Natarajan may assume the role of new party chief. Sasikala has so far not held any post either in the government or the party. This was the strategic political arrangement Jayalalithaa had made to keep the balance of power.
However, this may not last. Failing to have her way in the chief minister’s selection, Sasikala may try to control the party as general secretary or through her own faithful.
Though elections would be due in Tamil Nadu only in 2021, but there is anxiety about whether O. Panneerselvam, who has been sworn in as Chief Minister, would be able to hold the party and government together. To party supporters, Jayalalithaa was the only leader, the legatee of MGR and in her absence, the charisma of AIADMK would be put on test.
There is a question mark over the future of so-called Dravidian parties and politics as DMK patriarch Karunanidhi too is 92 years old and in frail health. Tamil Nadu has been integral to the national mainstream, with its 39 MPs often deciding which party will rule Delhi. National parties now see huge possibilities to expand their presence in Tamil Nadu.
The political field is wide open in Tamil Nadu, the land of temples as we bid adieu to “Amma”, the leader people adored”!