J Jayalalithaa, born in my hometown, was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on the day she was convicted in a disproportionate assets case: 27 September 2014. That is to say she was found guilty of possessing more wealth than she could have legally made. This is a classical case of operational corruption, i.e., corruption in the operations. But could it have anything to do with the overall political and economic structure in which she found herself? Is individual corruption independent of the primitive corruption in the foundations of a pre-designed system?
Perhaps all the reports of the 'Amma empire' collapsing like a deck of cards have a clue. She had a larger-than-life image which is now nearly destroyed, but let us focus on the fact that she actually had one. What prompted her to display such an image of herself? Why did she have to appear like a demigoddess, an all powerful and infinitely benevolent 'Amma'?
Well, quite clearly, so that she and her party could win elections. There must be something in their culture that urges the Tamils to worship such demigods and demigoddesses, and Jayalalithaa seems to have tapped it quite successfully. Let us not judge that culture but ask how someone can become a demigod or demigoddess in it. Well, one should either inherit the required wealth and image or make them for oneself. This much is clear. It's also clear that Jayalalithaa didn't inherit them.
But why did she take the operationally corrupt path to that status? Couldn't she have got to it legally? That's one way of approaching the problem. But it assumes that a legal way exists, that Tamil demigods and demigoddesses can come into existence in full compliance of the Indian Constitution. In reality, there's no such guarantee.
Her party's political ideology is unquestionably intertwined with the visible issue. We should remember that it's the one that's always been more palatable to the Centre. After all, it is the AIADMK which diluted Tamil Nationalism. The only significant other Tamil ideology, that of the DMK, has secessionist roots. Theirs is the other unconstitutional path to Tamil demigod status; Periyar Ramaswamy is worshipped even today for his secessionist ideology. In short, the Tamils, like us Kannadigas, don't have a constitutional path to autonomy in this nation. The question is: did the success of the well-respected AIADMK compromise, back then, hinge on the sustenance of personal demigod-on-celluloid status of party leaders like M G Ramachandran? Does it hinge on it even today? It certainly appears to be the case.
But did the founders of AIADMK foresee that the party would need a never-ending supply of demigods and demigoddesses to sustain popular Tamil support? If not that, what else did they hope the party would have to balance the secessionist DMK? Did they foresee a future in which one Bollywood actress's cleavage could buy out Tamil newspapers? Did they foresee an India in which AIADMK demigods would have to resort to anything to sustain their image? When economic reality caught up with her party, did it become inevitable for Jayalalithaa to resort to operational corruption? If yes, who is to blame? She, or the nation whose primitive corruption places the Tamils, like the Kannadigas, at the bottom of the Pyramid? It is very easy to point fingers at individuals, but only they know who know that it takes a Universe for a flower to bloom - or fade away.
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