With her unanimous re-election as AIADMK general secretary, chief minister J Jayalalithaa has further strengthened her position and reiterated her supremacy within the party, which she single-handedly nurtured and steered through troubled times.
Jayalalithaa could be among the few women politicians to have successfully led a party for more than two decades, suppressing rebellion and ensuring that the party reins remained firmly in her hands. AIADMK’s virtual sweep in the Lok Sabha elections is a reflection of her leadership capabilities, acknowledge political opponents. But, critics point out that a monolithic party with no second-line leadership does not augur well for a democratic system.
“AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran too did not groom anyone to take over after him, though he had several second-line leaders,” said Tamil writer Gnani Sankaran. Jayalalithaa’s attempts to take over the party after MGR’s death in 1987 was opposed by his supporters, including most of the ministers, about 100 party legislators and almost all the district secretaries.
“I was among just five ministers who backed Jayalalithaa then,” said Congress leader and former Union minister S Thirunavukkarasar, who was expelled from the party three times by Jayalalithaa. His last expulsion in 1997 saw Thirunavukkarasar, widely considered a potential successor to Jayalalithaa, seek refuge in BJP and then Congress. “No doubt, her intelligence and mass appeal helped her win over the MGR legacy and his vote-bank,” said Thirunavukkarasar.
“Even parties like DMK, DMDK or PMK have not groomed leaders (who are not family members). But, no one would dare to oppose their leaders and file nominations for the post of party president or general secretary,” said Gnani. While the political legacy could be passed on to family members like in the case of DMK or PMK, most regional party leaders prefer to be the ‘bosses’.
“This is the case in DMK. At 91, party chief Karunanidhi is still the boss. So was MGR and DMK founder C N Annadurai. That’s the culture of Dravidian parties,” said a senior AIADMK leader, not willing to be named. “In fact, that seems to be the case with regional parties in the north too – be it Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav or Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee,” he said. (TOI)