Things have changed rather dramatically over the past few days in the Tamil Country. While spring break between cricket series was marked by some hyperventilating at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, us Southern types went and voted in an election. Honestly, I am surprised by the surprise expressed over the rout of the DMK. While many in the national media could not make up their mind about the efficacy of the electoral process and the sheer existence of the secret ballot, Tamil Nadu’s electorate guided by the precise calculations of the AIADMK went ahead and pulled off regime change.
Jayalalithaa is today the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Her party the AIADMK almost has a two- thirds majority in the house. The CM until last week, M Karunanidhi is not even the leader of the opposition. That privilege now rests with Vijaykanth, leader of the upstart DMDK which fought the elections as a junior ally of Jayalalithaa and is now the second party in the assembly.
One almost feels sorry for the DMK, and schadenfreude when looking at it through the prism of all the recent corruption charges. What if Karunanidhi dies? Who inherits the party? What happens to the fractious family? Who goes to jail? Is Jayalalithaa going to accelerate corruption proceedings? Could Stalin ever become the leader his dad wanted him to be?
If one were to not upset themselves by considering the above, we could heartily distract ourselves by pondering Jayalalithaa’s future instead. Here is a leader who has amply demonstrated her maths and strategic skills. She is also seen to have vanquished the corrupt. If she delivers on the promises made in her party manifesto, could Tamil Nadu regain it preeminence among the states of India? In her previous stint she kept the state’s deficit in check. Can she repeat that and also increase GSDP?
Jayalalithaa is well aware of the things expected of her and is making the right noises. She is now far more media friendly than she used to be. She’s even reported to have asked her security detail to not hold traffic up for her, in a move calculated to endear herself to the sweltering mass of road users. She’s talking about restoring rule of law and delivering governance. The land of TASMAC liquor will have to now add milk and honey, and maybe even clean drinking water to its list of ever flowing liquids. Amma is now what Obama was. Except, Obama cannot speak Hindi.
Yes, remarkable for a Tamil politician from a Dravidian party to flaunt such a credential. In the months to come, we could possibly see Jayalalithaa occupy a subtle national media presence while she continues to quietly govern the state. Forget Obama, she could become what Narendra Modi is, except Narendra Modi is Lord Voldemort.
Like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu is one of those affluent states. A success story which has the kind of head start in prosperity and governance that Nitish Kumar’s Bihar and Naveen Patnaik’s Orissa sadly lack. Think about this. If the DMK crumbles post Karunanidhi, and the DMDK hubristically loses way, she could well look for a second term five years hence. And then there would be nothing to stop her. Meanwhile, she would have played a reasonably prominent role in the parliamentary elections. Forget Obama, forget Modi, Mrs. Thatcher here we come.
Anand Krishnamoorthi is a freelance sound engineer working in the movies. He also co-hosts the Puram Podcast on Tamil Politics at http://purampodcast.posterous.com/