Politics

After Jayalalithaa passed on, Ms Sasikala staged a coup of sorts. She succeeded in first getting ‘elected’ as the general secretary of the party and then as leader of the legislature party. Just when she was poised to become chief minister, the judgement of the Supreme Court scuppered her ambitions. She hurriedly expelled Mr Panneerselvam and got the legislators to elect Mr E Palaniswami as leader. The governor had no choice but to swear in Mr Palaniswami as chief minister.

Inevitably, the AIADMK split. To start with, there were two factions, but it is now apparent that there are three, if not four, factions. Despite the party’s split, the government continues as if nothing had happened! The budget session is under way, but no one has called for a vote on any demand for grant or on any Bill, and no one has moved a motion of no-confidence! That is a modern-day miracle produced by the survival instincts of the legislators!

The popular belief is that the BJP is the puppeteer and is pulling the strings that hold the four factions. It could be part of the BJP’s political strategy to carve out a space for itself in Tamil Nadu politics. It could be a tactical manoeuvre to garner the maximum number of votes for the election of the president and the vice-president. But if it is a long-term plan to win the AIADMK (or a major faction of the party) as an ally before forcing a mid-term poll in Tamil Nadu, then, serious questions will be raised.

Today, the AIADMK and the government are leaderless. Cases of corruption are exposed every day, but no one in the ruling faction of the AIADMK seems to care, smug in the belief that all factions of the party are in the clutches of the BJP-RSS, and nothing will be allowed that may lead to the defeat of the government.

After Jayalalithaa’s demise, major cases of corruption have been unearthed in Tamil Nadu

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Administrative corruption is rampant. There is a rate card in Tamil Nadu—a kind of menu of services and prices! A service can be obtained at the listed price. Under the current government, the system has been decentralized. Each MLA of the ruling faction is the virtual chief (minister) of his/her constituency; each minister is the virtual chief (minister) of his/her district.

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Meanwhile, the finances of the state government are spinning out of control. The total debt at the end of 2017–18 will be Rs 314,366 crore, which will be twice as much as the revenue projected at Rs 159,363 crore. The state took over the loan of Rs 22,815 crore of the power generation and distribution company (TANGEDCO) that caused the fiscal deficit to soar to a high of 4.58 per cent in 2016–17. The Debt to Gross State Domestic Product ratio has risen to 20.9 per cent. Capital expenditure, as a proportion of total expenditure, has declined in health and family welfare and in water supply, sanitation and urban development.

The government leaders in Tamil Nadu are ‘eating’ every day at every opportunity. The misgovernance is eating into the vitals of the state’s economy. The prime minister said that he would not allow anyone to ‘eat’: his words were ‘na khane doonga’. Pray, then, will the BJP explain why it is breaking bread with such a party and government?

Excerpted with the permission of Rupa Publications from the book ‘Speaking Truth to Power’ by P Chidambaram.

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