How the farcical side of Tamil Nadu politics is playing out
Sun TV, that tops the TRP meter every week, across all languages, has serious competition. And it comes from its backyard, with its epicentre more often than not, the Jayalalithaa memorial at the Marina beach.
The latest episode in the unending political circus stars a branch that has newly sprouted. He is Madhavan, the husband of Deepa, the niece of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. On Friday night, he became the latest visitor to Amma’s resting place, revealing that he plans to start his own political party.
The marital discord over political matters, it would seem, has spilled on to the Tamil Nadu street. On Jayalalithaa’s birth anniversary, 24 February, Deepa had launched the MGR Amma Deepa Peravai (Federation) and even went public with her plans to contest from her aunt’s Radhakrishnan Nagar assembly constituency. In the initial days after Jaya’s demise, many of Deepa’s supporters were leaders unhappy with VK Sasikala’s leadership and clandestinely extended help. With most of them subsequently migrating to O Panneerselvam’s camp, Deepa found that the anti-Sasikala space had found a new anchor. The only thing going for her has been her resemblance to Jayalalithaa, which in the sentimental world of Tamil Nadu politics, would still net her some votes, should she contest.
But Madhavan does not think much of Deepa’s chances. He in fact, alleges evil forces have taken over her outfit which is why he has stepped out. But instead of trying to ensure the “evil forces” are purged from his wife’s nascent political career, Madhavan has decided to chart out a new course for himself. And this political newbie expects Tamil Nadu to trust a man who opted not to be by his wife’s side, when she according to his own admission, is in trouble.
This “evil forces” talk is the second in the series of an abstract narrative, making its presence felt in Tamil Nadu politics. Panneerselvam was the first, when on 7 February he spoke of Amma’s conscience speaking to him. OPS with his revelation, transformed Amma’s memorial into a pitstop for AIADMK leaders of all hues – ruling party, rebels, wannabe politicians, convicts, relatives, relatives’ relatives, cheerleaders. Many of them have borrowed the OPS template of a meditation session followed by a dramatic announcement. They also clearly believe nocturnal visits are more productive which is perhaps why they arrive to dish out performances, they think are worthy of an Oscar nomination, in the Marina Moonlight. They obviously think Tamil Nadu is some La La Land.
Not that daytime call sheets pale in comparison on the drama quotient. This week, Finance minister D Jayakumar ensured he was part of a photo-op, with his briefcase with Jayalalithaa picture pasted on it, before he went to the Tamil Nadu assembly. But none of the performances have come anywhere close to an emotionally charged-up Sasikala’s three slaps on the Jaya’s grave before she went to Bengaluru prison on 15 February.
The latest twist in Madhavan aka Maddy exiting MAD Peravai makes one believe the script is being written by a ghost writer. It seems to be an attempt to discredit Deepa and finish her off politically. Because a three-way split in the traditional AIADMK vote, between TTV Dinakaran (Sasikala camp candidate), Madhusudanan (OPS camp candidate) and Deepa would only make it Advantage DMK.
Why Madhavan’s entry is being viewed with suspicion is because he has not ruled out contesting from RK Nagar. This would mean a husband versus wife electoral battle. But though he has distanced himself politically from Deepa, he denies a divorce is on the cards. The couple continues to live under the same roof, making everyone wonder if this is not an elaborate drama being played out.
Strangely, Deepa says he is not aware of Madhavan’s move to go solo, claiming she was hospitalised for viral fever.
Last month, Deepa and OPS had come together at Jaya memorial to signify a collaboration of forces but nothing came of it subsequently. Sources say Deepa felt sidelined in the OPS camp and decided to be on her own.
Adding masala to the family drama playing out is Madhavan’s revelation that he has been receiving anonymous threat calls. It is strange because if he was worried about the calls, he should have gone to the police station, not to Amma memorial.
For someone like Jayalalithaa who kept her family at arm’s length during her life, they have been all over since her demise. The latest is a man called J Krishnamoorthy, who claims to have been born to Jayalalithaa and Telugu actor Shobhan Babu. The court has asked the Chennai police to verify the documents submitted by him and warned Krishnamoorthy that he could be sent to jail if the documents are proven wrong.
Since 5 December when Jayalalithaa passed away, much of Tamil Nadu has been unhappy with Sasikala’s Mannargudi family moving into positions of power. Now Jayalalithaa’s family seems to want its slice of the power pie as well, almost as if it is a matter of right. Tamil Nadu needs to use the RK Nagar election to convey that it is no family heirloom.