When AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa was acquitted in the disproportionate assets case by the Karnataka High Court, many drew attention to the striking similarity the situation had to 2001, when she had to step down as Chief Minister and waited for a legal remedy to come back to the helm.
History repeated itself in a unique way on Friday through another personality. When O. Panneerselvam resigned his Chief Minister post, he was doing so for the second time in 14 years. Like in 2002, he relinquished office with a beaming smile , paving the way for his leader to climb the saddle yet again.
In the last seven months, the AIADMK government headed by Mr. Panneerselvam had to face a vociferous opposition, whose hands were strengthened by a series of corruption allegations that hit the dispensation. A Minister in his Cabinet had to resign and a graft case was registered against him. Mr. Panneerselvam was accused of heading a government that was paralysed by lack of authority, with projects like the Metro Rail remaining in limbo.
But in a way, the situation was a blessing in disguise for the AIADMK, as a perception was created that the apparent paralysis in the administration was only due to Ms. Jayalalithaa’s absence, and that things would be set right once she was back. BJP State president, Tamilisai Soundararajan echoed this view. “It gives happiness that a situation has come when the paralysed administration of the last seven months will turn into one that will bring benefits to the people,” she said in a statement.
On his part, Mr. Pannerselvam played the role of a deputy to perfection. From the word go, he made it a point to reiterate constantly that his government was being run with the “guidance” of Ms. Jayalalithaa. But this style of functioning also brought to the fore what had been a known fact for long. The AIADMK, currently the party with the largest base in Tamil Nadu, faces a serious crisis of second-level leadership. In Ms. Jayalalithaa’s absence, the party lacks a face that people can repose their confidence in. This is unlike the DMK where the transition to the next generation is now complete. The last seven months may have fuelled this apprehension further.