The News Minute brings you the Dravidian Chronicles, a collection of narratives on the margins of the 2016 election spotlight. Here we chronicle smaller, subtler shifts that catalyse and metamorphose the grand narratives of the electoral juggernaut.
Much may have been forgotten in the din of political campaigning. But the one line (punch dialogue?) that is oft repeated from the 1996 Assembly Elections in Tamil Nadu is none other than that of superstar Rajinikanth. His single statement, “Even God can’t save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalithaa returns to power,” is said to have cost AIADMK the polls. But there was a political storm brewing before the superstar arrived on the political scene.
Jayalalithaa was wrapping up her first term as Chief Minister. Public anger was palpable especially after an ostentatious display of wealth at her foster son Sudhakaran’s wedding in Chennai. Then there were the mounting allegations of corruption and amassing of wealth. Although Jayalalitha catapulted to power in 1991 in alliance with the Congress, the AIADMK supremo’s relationship with the national party soured soon. Insults were traded with Jayalalithaa even going so far as to say that she didn’t come to power because of a sympathy wave following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. While Union Minister of State for Commerce P Chidambaram led the corruption campaign against her government, state Congress leaders like GK Moopanar were resolutely opposed to an alliance with the AIADMK. Prime Minister and Congress President PV Narasimha Rao, however, was convinced that an alliance with the pro-LTTE leaning DMK would hurt the Congress’ prospects and unilaterally revived the alliance with Jayalalithaa.
Hurt by the Congress high command’s decision, GK Moopanar floated the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) splitting the Congress’ state unit overnight. Those who followed in Moopanar’s footsteps include Union Ministers Chidambaram and M. Arunachalam and Jayanthi Natarajan. Writer and analyst Gnani Sankaran says, “In 1996 when Tamil Maanila Congress was formed, it wasn’t a split in Congress. It was virtually Congress converting itself into TMC. And those who were left behind were very few in number. A state Congress party became TMC at that time.” The TMC was born on the platform of corruption, as a protest against the AIADMK-Congress alliance.