TN drama ends on a sad note

The weeks-old political uncertainty in Tamil Nadu has ended with Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami winning a confidence vote in the Assembly but with none of the main players emerging unscathed and untarnished from the drama. Disgraceful scenes were witnessed in the Assembly on Saturday with the Speaker being manhandled, furniture being broken and the session being adjourned twice before the vote was taken. Protesting DMK members, including their leader M K Stalin, had to be forcibly evicted from the House. Both the DMK and the rebel AIADMK faction led by O Panneerselvam wanted the vote to be postponed. The violence which started when the demand was not accepted was most condemnable. The DMK has been claiming through the duration of the crisis that it was an internal matter of the AIADMK. But its conduct in the Assembly showed that it was an interested party ready to use the most undemocratic methods. It was a shameful day for Tamil Nadu and marked another low for democracy in the country.  
Panneerselvam made serious miscalculations and came to grief because of the twists and turns of circumstances. His revolt against V K Sasikala was itself not convincing and the reported liaisons with the Centre, the BJP and with the DMK would not have added to his credibility. He may have misread the emerging situation and allowed himself to be used by others. The rebellion was probably happenstance. Otherwise he would be chief minister now, as happy with Sasikala’s leadership as Palaniswami is. But the accidental rebellion may have given him an appealing platform now, because an anti-Sasikala stance is likely to gain political currency in the state.

That makes Palaniswami’s victory more technical than moral and political, and even pyrrhic. There can be no moral and political defence of the resort politics that lasted about a week. The public commitment and allegiance to a person who has been convicted for corruption and is serving term in jail would only weaken and discredit him. Should an enlightened and progressive state like Tamil Nadu be run by proxy from a faraway prison? Sasikala has made arrangements to control the party and the government, and it will be a political folly if the new chief minister accepts them meekly. The right course for Palaniswami and the AIADMK is to distance themselves from Sasikala. In fact there is much irony and impropriety in swearing by the name of Jayalalithaa, too, who, it should not be forgotten, was convicted by the court. The government should now concentrate on administration, which the state needs after an extended period of uncertainty that started with the hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa last September.

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