From mass movements to desertions and rebellions, this has been one action-packed year for TN politics.

TNMs top 9 moments that defined Tamil Nadu politics in 2017Wikimedia Commons
news Politics Wednesday, December 27, 2017 - 19:01

1 Pro-jallikattu protests

The year started off with a mass movement across Tamil Nadu to protest against the 2014 Supreme Court ban on jallikattu, the traditional bull taming sport of the state. Jallikattu is conducted during the harvest festival of Pongal in the Tamil month of Thai. The mass protests, which started off in Alanganallur – the so-called hometown of jallikattu, culminated at Chennai’s Marina beach on January 17 with over 3,000 protesters shouting slogans through the night. The student-led protests were not only significant for being peaceful and spurred on by social media, but also for resulting in a jallikattu law.

2 Stalin appointed Working President of DMK

With rumours of the deteriorating health of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi doing the rounds over the past two years, the DMK, in its General Council meeting in January, appointed MK Stalin as the Working President of the party. Although Karunanidhi had named Stalin as his political heir four years ago in 2013, this announcement made it official that Stalin, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, will effectively be the party’s chief ministerial candidate. The ascension of Stalin, who has been waiting in the wings for 28 years, marks the rise of the second generational leadership in the DMK as well as in Tamil Nadu politics.

3 OPS’ rebellion against Sasikala

Within a few hours of J Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5, 2016, O Panneerselvam took oath as Chief Minister. He resigned two months later in order to make way for Jayalalithaa’s close aide VK Sasikala. The Governor, who had accepted OPS’ resignation, had appointed him caretaker CM so as to not cause a leadership vacuum in the state. However, on the night of February 7, 2017, OPS sat in meditation in front of Jayalalithaa’s memorial, following which he announced to the press that he was forced to resign.

OPS’ primary charge was against Sasikala, who he claimed was unhappy with the good work done during December’s Cyclone Vardah. This caused months of rift within the AIADMK, causing the party to split into two factions for the RK Nagar bye-elections: Edappadi Palaniswami’s AIADMK (Amma) and OPS’ AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma).

For a man who had toed the party line for as long as he had been in the party, even serving as interim Chief Minister when Jayalalithaa was jailed twice, this was a highly unusual move. Since Jayalalithaa herself had not appointed a political heir in her lifetime, the rebellion threw open the mantle to anyone who wanted to lay claim to her legacy. This also brought to fore fringe actors such a Deepa Jayakumar, Jayalalithaa’s niece who started her own party, as well as TTV Dhinakaran, Sasikala’s nephew, who contested as an independent in the RK Nagar bye-polls. 

4 Jayalalithaa and Sasikala convicted in the Disproportionate Assets Case

In February this year, the Disproportionate Assets case, which had been plaguing the AIADMK’s image for 18 years, finally came to an end with the conviction of the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa as well as her close aide VK Sasikala. The conviction not only brought a ten-year ban to the political ambitions of Sasikala but, as the judgement noted, it also cements the legacy of Jayalalithaa, among other things, as a corrupt politician and a corrupt Chief Minister.

5 BJP in Tamil Nadu

Whether it was covertly engineering the reunion of the split factions of the AIADMK or the Income Tax raids on properties of Sasikala’s relatives or even attempting to tap into the star power of Rajnikanth, the BJP at the Centre, has activated its satellite in the state. And the Tamil Nadu BJP under Tamilisai Sounderrajan and H Raja has been in overdrive to try and woo the Dravidian populace of the state. However, if the recent bye-polls in RK Nagar are anything to go by, the BJP is still yet to gain a foothold in state.

6 NEET exam and a girl’s suicide

The tragic suicide of medical aspirant Anitha over the National Eligibility Entrance Test shook the collective conscience of Tamil Nadu and inflamed the people over the state’s failure to protect students under its own education board. The exam, which decides the dreams of thousands of medical aspirants in the country, is designed to privilege central boards over the Tamil Nadu state board. The state wrecked the hopes of its students by neither revising the syllabus nor securing a deferral from the Central government until the syllabus was revised.

7 Video of Jayalalithaa in hospital

In a clear violation of privacy rights, TTV Dhinakaran’s supporter and disqualified AIADMK MLA P Vetrivel released a video showing the late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in hospital, a day before the RK Nagar elections. While the clip itself was proof that Jayalalithaa was recovering before she eventually died of a cardiac arrest on December 5, 2016, the release of the video to the public and the media was a blatant disregard for ethics. Moreover, the video of an ailing Jayalalithaa tarnished the image that the late leader had worked so hard to maintain throughout her lifetime.

8 2G verdict

A Special CBI Court in Delhi acquitted DMK’s A Raja and Kanimozhi, among others, of all charges in the 2G spectrum case. The judgement shocked a country that had for seven years believed that the UPA regime had been complicit in one of the largest corruption scams in Indian history.

The verdict also means a more prominent role for DMK’s Rajya Sabha MP and daughter of party chief Kanimozhi.

9 TTV’s RK Nagar Victory

Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran won as an independent candidate at the RK Nagar bye-polls in December. The elections, which were cancelled in April over widespread allegations of corruption, were closely contested by the ruling AIADMK and the principal opposition, the DMK. While the victory of TTV marked the entry of a Sasikala family member into electoral politics, it was also an embarrassing defeat for the DMK that lost its deposit in the polls. With anger against the ruling government to tap into and the 2G verdict that came as a shot in the arm, the DMK failed to capitalise on any of the factors that could have worked in its favour.