An iconic politician in J. Jayalalithaa breathed her last on December 5, 2016, leaving the entire state of Tamil Nadu in disarray. Visuals from televisions covering supporters weeping in unexplainable grief reveals volumes about the Iron Lady, who left her firm footprint in the history of Tamil polity, a sphere strongly dominated by men.
The entire state of Tamil Nadu, especially people from the margins, would miss her service and commitment to welfare dearly. The well thought out initiatives taken by her ranging from Amma canteen, Amma pharmacy, grinders, laptops, etc, all talk about her commitment to welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu in general and more so a large number of poor women. The iconic politician has been a leader of comebacks – be in defeats in elections, battling controversial cases, poor health and what not. Just as everyone held their hope of their dearest Amma bouncing back in style (just as always she did), she departed, leaving several hearts broken. The iconic politician in Jayalalithaa would remain forever, a classic example of all mankind who go through cycles of trials and triumphs.
More significantly, what remains most intriguing is the political void her demise has led to and what’s in store in the years to come. There are a number of possibilities that remain.
Firstly, a few eminent personalities have voiced concerns about AIADMK’s future with the services of their best administrator no longer available. Many have even said that the party would split owing to possible administrative failures and inability to find the best successor for the late CM. Talks also persist about Tamil Nadu becoming a firm hold of the DMK, while a few argue that the vacuum created by the demise of Jayalalithaa and doubts about AIDMK retaining its prowess in the state would enable other parties to enter the state polity. While any of these possibilities are ripe, it would be more productive to examine the fallout of these possibilities in greater detail.
For instance, if AIADMK continues to remain undivided against public perception and competes with DMK in the state, the state’s political discourse would remain largely unchanged with strong regional connotations based on Dravidian doctrines. This would retain the federal structure and unique discourse of an independent state polity while on the other hand, such a development would limit infusion of new political tales by major national parties and widen people’s choices.
Though at this stage, if it can be anticipated that major national parties will try their best to capitalise on this vacuum, doubts remain about their political capital to do so. We should also examine if the discourse and ideologies of major national parties would resonate well with the Tamil-speaking community. Would these national parties tailor make their narratives to appease people through tactics prominent in Tamil Nadu like social welfare schemes or would they develop an economic growth narrative in a state already industrialised enough? These are questions that have no predictable answers and only time can answer them.
However, one thing remains certain. There is tremendous potential in Tamil polity and the player who plays in lines with the aspirations of Tamilians while being sensitive to local sentiments with a strong ground-level organisation would ultimately triumph in the long run or may be even in the near future.