The AIADMK crisis: who'll take the party forward?

Jayalalithaa vs Janaki: The last succession battle

Jayalalitha waving the victory sign shortly after the general council meeting of the AIADMK ratified her election as General Secretary of the party at a meeting held on January 2, 1988 at Hemamalini Kalyana Mandapam in Madras. To her right is V.R. Nedunchezhian, acting Chief Minister, and on the left K. Rajaram, Minister for Industries.(Published in The Hindu on January 3, 1988)PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES   | Photo Credit: K_GAJENDRAN

As the succession drama in Tamil Nadu unfolds, it is worth taking a look at the last succession struggle in the state’s political landscape. It was a tumultuous set of events that led to Jayalalithaa taking over the AIADMK. Or as Umberto Eco put it, “Everything is repeated, in a circle.”

After M.G. Ramachandran died when in office as the state’s Chief Minister, on December 24, 1987, the AIADMK split into two factions, with one supporting Janaki Ramachandran, MGR’s wife and the other behind Jayalalithaa, who was at the time the party’s propaganda secretary.

Ministers R.M. Veerappan, C. Ponnaiyan, P.U. Shanmugam and S. Muthuswami wanted Janaki to contest the election, while MGR’s aide and then the acting Chief Minister Nedunchezhian was firm on his decision to contest. Jayalalithaa, at the time, said she was “not aspiring for any post.”

One day after Jayalalithaa made this statement, she “assumed general secretaryship of the party.” The party witnessed a split, with one group electing Janaki as the leader of the AIADMK Legislature Party, and the other under Jayalalithaa choosing Nedunchezhian for the same post. Both groups met Governor S.L. Khurana to stake their claims.

Once this happened, the two factions met head-on at Lloyds Road, leading to an almost-clash. The police persuaded the pro-Janaki group to disperse.

Meanwhile MLA K.P. Ramalingam, who is now a DMK MP, denied that he had assaulted Jayalalithaa during MGR’s funeral procession, one of the key events that led to the formation of a faction supporting her. Deepan, Janaki’s nephew, had a case registered against him by Jayalalithaa, who accused him of assaulting her. Walter I. Davaram was then the Commissioner of Police, and he told reporters that her complaint was being probed.

The AIADMK headquarters accused Jayalalithaa of flouting party rules by assuming the general secretaryship and announcing various schemes in the name of the party. A statement signed by S. Raghavanandam, H.V. Hande and K. Kalimuthu said that disciplinary action would be taken against her.

In response to this, Minister S. Thirunavukkarasu said that the election of Jayalalithaa was “just and legal” in an “extraordinary situation.” Thirunavukkarasu said that the "so-called rules framed in 1976" had never been implemented. When MGR was alive, "what he said was law and what he did was a precedent."

Governor Khurana, during this back-and-forth within the party, invited Janaki to form the government, leading Jayalalithaa, who was by then a Member of Parliament, to term it “unconstitutional and against all democratic norms.” She also complained to the Governor that her supporters were being arrested by the police in various districts.

The Governor retaliated that he was following a “strictly constitutional and democratic course without getting involved in party politics.”

"I have been directed by the Governor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated January 6, 1988 and to inform you that the contentions raised by you in that letter are wholly illegal, untenable, baseless and without substance,” wrote the Governor’s Secretary.

Jayalalithaa then told her supporters who had gathered at Poes Garden that she would demonstrate the massive support for her with an extensive tour of the state. At the same time, a judge at the city civil court granted an interim injunction restraining Jayalalithaa from functioning as the general secretary.

30 AIADMK MLAs belonging to the Jayalalithaa camp, who were lodged in hotels in Indore said they would leave for Delhi and return to Chennai only once the Assembly was in session. The next day, two supporters of Jayalalithaa — V. Karuppusamy Pandian and S. Navaneethakrishnan — were removed from party posts. Jayalalithaa wrote to the DGP asking for police protection for her supporters.

A contempt petition was filed against Jayalalithaa for continuing to call herself ‘general secretary,’ despite a court order prohibiting her from doing so. Meanwhile, the MLAs supporting Jayalalithaa arrived in Mumbai from Indore and checked in at a hotel owned by a Shiv Sena leader.

P.H. Pandian — who was among the first to revolt against V.K. Sasikala now — who was then the Speaker, forwarded a petition to Nedunchezhian and six other Ministers seeking their disqualification from the Assembly under the anti-defection law. 25 AIADMK leaders, including Jayalalithaa, were arrested after a lathi charge when they tried to enter the party headquarters. Mr. Davaram said the arrest was a preventive measure.

Jayalalithaa alleged a plot to kill her, and the police registered a case. AIADMK Ministers, in their response to Mr. Pandian said that they were still members of the party. She also went to Delhi to meet the President R. Venkatraman and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The headquarters secretary of the AIADMK C. Aranganayagam urged party workers to elect her as the general secretary.

On January 28, 1988, when the Janaki government’s confidence motion came up for vote in the Assembly, unprecedented violence took over the House. The Congress [then the Congress (I)] had promised its support to the government, but on the day of voting, it was clear that the party would vote against the government. Congress MLAs E.V.K.S. Elangovan, Durai Krishnamoorthi, T.R. Venkataramanan, V.G. Chellappa and K. Sornalingam had informed the Speaker that they had resigned from their Membership of the House. A few minutes later, these MLAs entered the House. Later Mr. Pandian announced that he was disqualifying the AIADMK MLAs from their Membership.

Almost immediately, a clash ensued, and mikes and paperweights were thrown by Members at each other. When an object landed on Mr. Pandian, he returned to his chamber without making any announcement. Then, in a first, a band of steel-helmeted policemen led by Mr. Davaram entered the Assembly and conducted a lathi charge on the Members of the House.

This incident led to the imposition of President’s rule in the state, dismissing the three-week old government formed by Janaki.

Janaki was elected the party president, and she expelled Jayalalithaa, Nedunchezhian, S. Ramachandran Thirunavukkarasu, K.K.S.S.R. Ramachandran, R. Soundararajan, Aranganayagam and Hande from the party’s primary membership. But the interim injunction against Jayalalithaa was suspended.

Addressing a party meeting in Madurai, Jayalalithaa promised a corruption-free government, after she assumed charge as general secretary. Also similar to current events, Jayalalithaa said she found MGR’s death suspicious and demanded a probe into the circumstances.

After an order was issued by Additional District Magistrate (ADM) and Personal Assistant (General) to the Collector of Madras, C. Shantakumar, the Jayalalithaa faction regained possession of the party headquarters. Jayalalithaa resigned from her Rajya Sabha post and contested Assembly elections from Bodinayakkanur. Her faction won only 27 seats, and she became the first female Leader of Opposition.

In February 1989, the merger of the two factions was formalised and Jayalalithaa restored the ‘two leaves’ symbol, after which the AIADMK won 39 of 40 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 5:55:53 AM |

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