Inquiry into Jayalalithaa's death: Politics of probe

In ordering a judicial inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami has adopted a political response to a political demand. There is little doubt that Jayalalithaa received the best possible medical treatment when hospitalised. However, the purpose of ordering an inquiry is to satisfy one of the three conditions put forward by the faction of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the AIADMK (PTA) led by O. Panneerselvam, for a merger. Having first removed V.K. Sasikala’s nephew, T.T.V. Dhinakaran, as the party’s deputy general secretary, Mr. Palaniswami fulfilled another condition set by the faction, by declaring Jayalalithaa’s residence a public memorial. These demands were a cover for backroom bargaining on ministerial berths and party posts. But by acceding to them, Mr. Palaniswami seems to have put the pressure back on Mr. Panneerselvam to move towards a merger. The larger purpose behind the AIADMK (PTA)’s demands was to force the ruling AIADMK faction, the AIADMK (Amma), to distance itself from the Sasikala family. Now, at least for public consumption the AIADMK (Amma) seems to have done so in the interest of the merger (to pave the way for the retrieval of the Two Leaves election symbol), and to maintain good relations with the BJP-led government at the Centre.

By all accounts, the BJP wants the two factions to merge, and it can be expected to put added pressure on the AIADMK (PTA) to do so. In any case, Mr. Panneerselvam no longer can hope to be recognised as the sole inheritor of Jayalalithaa’s political legacy. MLAs in his camp are tired of waiting it out without the benefits of being in office. If his demand for a judicial inquiry into Jayalalithaa’s death is to yield real political dividends, then the inquiry would have to point to some shortcomings on the part of Sasikala in administering good care during the days immediately before hospitalisation. Some of the leaders in his faction have been asking for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation, perhaps in the hope that the agency would do the bidding of the Centre. The BJP seems to have opted for a strategy that allows it to deal with a united AIADMK that is beaten into submission as an ally, instead of pushing for a high-risk scenario that would have meant aiding the AIADMK factions to self-destruct and waiting to take up the political space vacated by them. Any other course would have amounted to surrendering the political advantage to the main Opposition party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which lost the Assembly election narrowly last year. Clearly, the BJP is unwilling to sacrifice its short-term political interests in Tamil Nadu in the implementation of a long-term vision.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 12:50:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/politics-of-probe/article19519740.ece

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