New Delhi, Dec 5: It’s a year since former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief J Jayalalithaa passed away in Chennai after a prolonged illness. The news of Jayalalithaa’s sudden demise not only sent shockwaves across the southern state it also triggered unprecedented upheaval in Tamil Nadu politics. AIADMK, the party which was held together by Jayalalithaa for so many years, collapsed with two groups confronting each other to take control. Her death created a vacuum which is yet to be filled.
Jayalalithaa was admitted to Chennai’s Apollo Hospital in September with symptoms of infection and acute dehydration. After a month, she handed over her official duties to trusted aide O Panneerselvam as doctors claimed that she was recovering but still not fit enough to join office. Mystery surrounded Jayalalithaa’s health as no on was allowed to meet her in the hospital. On December 4, she was admitted to the ICU after suffering from a cardiac arrest. Doctors said her condition was critical as she was on life support system. On December 5, 2016, she was declared dead. (Also Read: Jayalalithaa: A shy actress who became Queen of Tamil Nadu)
The news of Jayalalithaa’s death triggered a Tsunami of emotions among thousands of her supporters. The administration in Chennai had a tough time handling the situation and more security force was summoned from neighbouring states. Amma, as Jayalalithaa was famously regarded by her supporters, was cremated on December 6 at Chennai’s Marina Beach. Her grave is now a memorial visited by hundreds daily.
The Political Turmoil After Jaya’s Death
Since O Panneerselvam had been handling Jayalalithaa’s official work, it was believed that he would be the one to take official charge of the CM’s office. He did but only to be removed unceremoniously later by VK Sasikala, who was considered Jaya’s ‘soul sister’. Sasikala, who hardly spoke in public, took command of AIADMK.
Panneerselvam, who had until now kept quiet over the developments, claimed he was forced to resign from the CM’s post by Sasikala and her group within the AIADMK. A huge drama unfolded. Panneerselvam claimed Sasikala connived with the Opposition to throw him out to take full control of the AIADMK and the Tamil Nadu government.
After his ‘forced’ resignation on February 7, Panneerselvamm, in a dramatic move, went to Jayalalithaa memorial and sat alone with eyes close in meditation. The images of a teary-eyed Panneerselvam, with Amma’s photo in his pocket, meditating at the memorial, was relayed LIVE on TV screens across the country. Things turned uglier in the coming days.
“Jayalalithaa’s soul called out to me, so I came here to search my conscious. Also, I want to tell some truth to the people of this country and party cadre. I have performed my duty without any shortcomings and carried forward path shown by Ammaa. Sasikala’s team is pressurising me,” Panneerselvam told reporters after his ‘meditation’.
The Entry of Edappadi Palaniswami
Stage was set for Sasikala to be Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and her nephew TTV Dinakaran, who was thrown out of AIADMK by Jayalalithaa in 2011, to assume more power in the party. However, her dreams were shattered when she was convicted in a disproportionate assets case in which Jayalalithaa herself was named.
Before surrendering at Bengaluru jail, Sasikala picked her then close aide Edappadi Palaniswami to be Tamil Nadu CM. Palaniswami took charge on February 16, 2017. By establishing Palaniswami, Sasikala had hoped of running the state government from her jail cell. However, she failed in her attempt to assume a role of a ‘super CM’. The two warring factions of the AIADMK, headed by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam respectively, decided to bury their differences and unite to save their party from crumbling further.
The two leaders finally joined hands in August this year after a bitter split about six months ago. “The burden in my heart is gone, None can separate us, we are children of Amma, we are brothers,” a smiling Panneerselvam, who was made Tamil Nadu’s deputy CM told reporters.
Tamil Nadu has witnessed several political short plays since Jayalalithaa’s death last year, and the drama is not over yet.