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Jallikattu Uprising Drowned Out 'Chinnamma for CM' Chorus

VK Sasikala had nursed ambitions to take the next big plunge after getting elected as the AIADMK’s General Secretary to become the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. And then the Jallikattu row erupted.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:January 29, 2017, 6:12 PM IST
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News18 Sunday FeatureChennai’s iconic Marina beach is once again calm. Tourists and sundry visitors have reclaimed the sands after days of turmoil when thousands landed up here ostensibly to protest the ban on the bull-taming sport Jallikattu. They ended up unleashing a laundry list of grievances, raising slogans for banning multinationals, supporting Tamil nationalism and demanding more water from the already-thin Kaveri.

They have gone back now. And so has ‘Chinnamma’ VK Sasikala’s plan to ascend the throne in fort St George, the seat of power in Tamil Nadu. By all accounts, Sasikala had nursed ambitions to take the next big plunge after getting elected as the AIADMK’s General Secretary to become the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.

The dawn of the New Year did begin with glad tidings. Deputy Lok Sabha Speaker M Thambidurai had openly voiced support for her to become the Chief Minister, suggesting it is better if the party leadership and government is in the hands of the same person.

And then the Jallikattu row erupted. And as dust settles on the bull-taming sport, the picture that emerges has Panneerselvam standing a tad taller while Sasikala, it seems, has to postpone the coronation plans.

“The events of the past week have certainly overtaken the question that was in everyone's mind,” says veteran journalist RK Radhakrishnan. He feels the question of Chinnamma becoming Chief Minister is right now playing in the background even as the AIADMK government tries to bring back normalcy in the state.

ALSO READ: Anti-Social Elements Infiltrated Jallikattu Protests, says CM Panneerselvam

“This then is the big challenge: how soon will Tamil Nadu become ‘normal’ so that Sasikala’s supporters and advisers can make the next steps. Right now, the situation is not right for Sasikala to take over. The ruling party wants Panneerselvam to handle and clean up the mess caused by the Jallikattu agitation so that Sasikala, apart from taking the credit for upholding Tamil culture, can also start with a distinct advantage. Unfortunately, with the Supreme Court deciding to hear the petitions on Jallikattu on January 31, normalcy in Tamil Nadu appears to be some distance away. Because of this, Sasikala's coronation will have to wait,” he says.

Analysts agree that timing of ascent is important in politics. “A change of guard immediately after protests will not be a great idea,” says political observer Perumal Mani, adding, “Sasikala will wait for the right time to take over as the Chief Minister.”

ALSO READ: A Look at How Social Media Powered Jallikattu Protests

Meanwhile, Pannerselvam — a man whose luck never seems to run out — has earned some praises on the way he handled the Marina uprising. For one, the expectations were not much. But he managed to carry through a police action without any massive damages.

Also, Panneerselvam has been quietly building up his image among people and party men for a while now even when Jayalalithaa was alive. Under him, bureaucrats and officials are said to be more approachable as opposed to what was seen as an opaque administration system. His decision to stay back in Delhi after the initial response from the Prime Minister’s Office that it could do little towards ensuring Jallikattu is allowed proves, say analysts, his mettle.

“Panneerselvam is trying to do his best for the state. He stayed back in Delhi for two days to make sure that an Ordinance is promulgated. Later, he went to Alanganallur to inaugurate Jallikattu, but that did not go as planned. In both cases, he accepted, saying such turns are common in politics. So, he is trying to assert himself as the head of the state,” says political analyst Perumal Mani.

Political commentator Gnani agrees. “Panneerselvam as a CM is welcome because he addresses the press, handles questions and visits the spot,” he says.

Thambidurai who openly endorsed Sasikala as the Chief Minister, told CNN-News 18 that he doesn’t want to speak on the issue. He refused to answer further questions, saying it was not the right time.

C Ponnaiyan, AIADMK spokesperson, denied there was any “official” discussion within the party on making Chinnamma the CM. “Ministers and party functionaries gave their independent views but the party never had this discussion,” he said.

During the Jallikattu protests, Sasikala stayed largely indoors.

However, political observers note that she was quick to claim credit for Panneerselvam’s trip to Delhi and the Centre’s green light for the Ordinance. “I made the AIADMK government fight for this cause (Jallikattu). I sent AIADMK MPs to meet the Prime Minister and Home Minister in person to request them (Centre) to permit the conduct of Jallikattu in the state. I asked the Chief Minister to meet the Prime Minister to talk about the issue,” she said in a statement issued soon after the CM landed back.

Whether or not Sasikala still nurses those ambitions to make the ultimate plunge remains to be seen, but the upsurge of Tamil pride which also took the form of an anti-establishment show of discontent has clearly called for political sensibilities to prevail.

(More Sunday Features)

| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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