If putting the administration back on its rails is the main task before Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the political challenge before her is much larger: the prospect of getting re-elected in the next Assembly election.
It will be a remarkable achievement if a party retains power in a general election in Tamil Nadu, as it has not been done either by her or her bête noire, DMK chief M.Karunanidhi in the last three decades.
It was her late political mentor M.G. Ramachandran who last won back-to-back elections to retain power way back in 1984. From 1989 onwards, the DMK and the AIADMK have alternately ruled the State.
All the charisma, political acumen and leadership that Ms. Jayalalithaa and Mr. Karunanidhi have displayed have not been enough to get the people to repose faith in them in two successive polls.
Corruption is indeed an issue — apart from electoral arithmetic — that changes the fortunes of the two Dravidian parties every five years.
For Ms. Jayalalithaa, the last word is yet to be said in the disproportionate assets case, and it may well go to the Supreme Court. But first things first. She has to put governance back on track and cleanse it of the corruption taint that has accumulated over the past seven months. As party leader, she did act tough by removing Agri S.S. Krishnamoorthy, now jailed, from the Cabinet.
In her absence, the O. Panneerselvam-led government seemed rudderless, and development took a back seat. Apart from taking pro-active steps on several fronts including manufacturing, IT and infrastructure, the new government will have to put several projects on the fast track.
While Chennai Metrorail is waiting to be inaugurated, Monorail, her pet project, is in the final stages. Officials say two bidders have sought a month’s time seeking clarifications and a fortnight has passed already. “This will be the last opportunity [for the government],” says a bureaucrat.
While there is a widespread feeling that Tamil Nadu is no longer an investment destination, the new dispensation would look to change this image and the success of the Global Investors Meet (GIM) could be the key.
At the grass-root level, there here have been complaints about shortage of commodities in fair price shops. And as the public distribution system touches the commoners more than any other, swift action could save the government’s face.
All her political astuteness will be needed to negotiate the best deals from the BJP-led government at the Centre, which needs her party’s support in the Rajya Sabha. And there are inter-State water disputes to resolve and inter-linking of rivers to complete.
The list is long. The people are watching.