The senior leadership in the DMK has adopted a wait-and-watch strategy, hoping the AIADMK would self-destruct.

Why the DMK is not moving aggressively after Jayalalithaas hospitalisation
news Analysis Friday, October 14, 2016 - 17:31

On October 11, nearly three weeks after TN CM Jayalalithaa was admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, the TN Governor allocated all her cabinet portfolios to her long-time loyalist, O Panneerselvam or OPS.

Though Jayalalithaa remains the CM, the announcement that OPS will head cabinet meetings is a clear indication that the CM is not in full control of the government.

It is now widely believed that former bureaucrat and CM’s top advisor Sheela Balakrishnan, and the CM’s powerful aide Sasikala, are calling the shots. Sheela is known to have a strong control over the state’s administrative machinery, with Chief Secretary Ram Mohan Rao toeing her line. But insiders say that all decisions are vetted by Sasikala. 

As the days go by, many wonder how long the present system would hold strong.

Amidst all of this, what has been the strategy of the Grand Old Party of Dravidian politics, the DMK?

Jayalalithaa’s loosening grip, which might very well be temporary, is a good opportunity for the DMK to strengthen its ranks. But DMK insiders have told TNM that the party’s top leadership is treading very carefully. Further, they are waiting for the AIADMK to self-destroy, there are already murmurs of caste factions propping up in the party.

“When it comes to things like ill health or being jailed, there is a great risk of a sympathy wave, and we do not want that to be turned against us,” a DMK member told TNM.

The verdict in the Disproportionate Assets case could be out soon, and both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala are involved in it. If Jayalalithaa remains too ill to govern, and Sasikala is convicted by the Supreme Court, and the DMK could be staring at an open field with no power structure to deal with. So why risk political maneuvering now?

The statements and actions of the DMK so far reflect this strategy.

While the DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi has questioned the functioning of the government with Jayalalithaa being unwell, he has been very careful to not make any statements against the ill CM. His first statement on her hospitalization wished her good health, and he said that he hoped she would get back to work soon. Party spokespersons have also been careful to not make any negative statements against Jayalalithaa.

Since then, senior DMK leaders including MK Stalin have visited her at the hospital. Much to everyone’s surprise, Karunanidhi’s wife, Rajathi Ammal, too visited Apollo and met Sasikala on Thursday and enquired about Jayalalithaa’s health. Rajathi Ammal who was Karunanidhi's companion during his theatre and movie making days, according to sources, was acquainted with Jayalalithaa and Sasikala. Her visit is being seen as a non-partisan gesture. 

There has been talk of DMK identifying certain AIADMK MLAs who could be approached to break away from the government in case such an opportunity presents itself. But DMK leaders vehemently deny any such thing has happened, and further point out that that it’s unlikely to be their strategy even if the situation was worse.

“We do not want to be seen as the party which took advantage of an ill leader to gain power. Any benefits to DMK from this has to be organic. If we are seen to be manufacturing a rebellion now, it could prove to be a huge embarrassment for us later,” a DMK member said.

This is also similar how Karunanidhi responded to MGR’s hospitalization in 1984, when he released a statement praising MGR and recalling his great relationship with him.

The senior leadership in the DMK has adopted a wait-and-watch strategy. How the DMK acts will also depend on how the AIADMK reacts in the coming days. And with things hanging in the balance within the AIADMK too, the party just wants to be seen playing a responsible opposition. 

 

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