Monday 23 May 2022
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Jayalalithaa’s true status can’t be declared immediately

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news analysis[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his evening, while all news channels were broadcasting the ‘news’ that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and head Jayaram Jayalalithaa was critical, at 5:45 PM, a few announced she was dead. Prominent among the latter was India Today, with journalist making the announcement. सिर्फ़ News has learnt that the ‘information’ was obtained from three sources: The flag was fluttering at half mast at the party headquarters; some staffers of Apollo Hospital said to the journalists under the condition of anonymity that Jayalalithaa was dead, and at least 2 Tamil-language channels made announcements to the same effect.

Within a few minutes as Jayalalithaa’s supporters broke down inconsolably before the hospital, however, Rahul Kanwal replaced Sardesai on the screen of India Today to inform their viewers that Apollo Hospital had denied the report of her death. By then, curiously, the channel’s sister concern Aaj Tak had begun playing clippings from the movies featuring Jayalalithaa that came across virtually as an obituary. In the meantime, no other national news channel dared say that the leader was no more.

सिर्फ़ News happened to be in the hub of government’s own channel of information at this crucial juncture. At Shastri Bhavan, Union ministers, secretaries, other officials, OSDs, etc were frantically calling their contacts in Chennai to get a final confirmation or denial of the part-rumoured, part-broadcast status of Puratchi Thalaivi. Most of them were told that nobody could be surer than the cadre in the party headquarters.

Lending more credence to the speculation, Union Information & Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who had rushed to Chennai yesterday in the wake of the ‘news’ that Jayalalithaa had suffered a cardiac arrest, called Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao and chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao to inquire about the latest status of the patient’s health. This, even as Apollo Hospital had declared that it had not withdrawn the life support system from the patient.

Let us now look at a time a few weeks subsequent to Jayalalithaa’s admission to the hospital. Rumours of her death had begun doing the rounds, with many journalists tempted to make the announcement. Today it finally became clear that the pronouncement of the inevitable cannot be made for two reasons.

The first is what everybody is talking about. Given the fanaticism with which Jayalalithaa’s supporters dote on her, the probability of a riot breaking out on hearing about her death, with a few instances of self-immolation, is high. This was why, about a month ago, Apollo was asking the State and authorities to move the iconic politician to a foreign medical destination from where the sad news could be handled in a safer manner.

The second reason, which is more significant, is downright political. While the BJP has hardly had a presence in Tamil Nadu so far, it reckoned that it was inadvisable to bulldoze its way in because Jayalalithaa-led  had been the main claimant of Hindu votes, which the national party did not wish to divide. Since the BJP is present in the State only in the form of swayamsevaks of the RSS, it also needed a wholly political face to project to the people. Actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth had, however, fizzled out. The ultimate bet has been Rajinikanth all this while.

JayalalithaaThe issue with Rajini was that he risked getting reduced to the stature of a Chiranjeevi of Tamil Nadu while towering political personalities Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi were active and thriving in public life. Both the superstar of Tamil cinema and the BJP were, therefore, doing nothing but biding their time for the end of the prevailing era.

For the AIADMK, either merger with the BJP or obsolescence is inevitable. Personality cult being the driver of the Tamil Nadu-based party, it has no life beyond Jayalalithaa’s.

For the BJP, it is not just about ruling Tamil Nadu. It is as much about having a greater strength in the Rajya Sabha.

Rajini is but a simple man, who would be all at if pushed to the forefront of politics without backroom preparations for the big change in Tamil Nadu, which involves taking all stakeholders of power into confidence till the time the tenure of the present State government is not over. These negotiations take time. If the imminent news is out before that, the will disintegrate due to lack of motivation under the caretaking leadership of O Panneerselvam or anybody else they can lay their hands on.

In a state of getting withered away, the can strike no deal with any influential politician, let alone with a major political party to face the formidable DMK. Thus, more than Apollo Hospital management’s urge to avert a riot before its premises, it is the need of the ruling parties at the Centre and the State that is keeping the sombre news from turning official. There is a lot at stake.

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