Chennai: 2016 ended as a year of grief for people of Tamil Nadu who lost their popular leader J Jayalalithaa, who had only seven months ago led her party to a comprehensive successive second victory in the Assembly polls.
Cyclone Vardah hitting hard and a series of protests and sporadic violence on the Cauvery issue stretching over a month were among the other key events that the state witnessed this year. As the ruling AIADMK is trying to find its feet in both party affairs and governance with the passing away of Jayalalithaa, main Opposition DMK is on a wait-and-watch mode though it continues to take up key issues like Cauvery and Jallikattu to keep the political pot boiling. DMK treasurer MK Stalin became the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly for the first time, and his party won 89 seats.
Cyclone Vardah hit the state was like deja vu, reminding the sufferings of 2015's heavy rains during the corresponding period. Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to release Rs 22,573 crore as cyclone aid. Jayalalithaa swung into action from day one after being sworn in May as chief minister for the sixth time by implementing a slew of measures. Waiver of crop loans for farmers, increase in gold allocation for women beneficiaries and closure of 500 Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac) liquor outlets were among the measures aimed at fulfilling her electoral promises.
Ever since Jayalalithaa's hospitalisation on 22 September, till her passing away on 5 December, the state remained on tenterhooks with medical bulletins appearing on and off on her health status. Mass prayers in places of worship across Tamil Nadu by AIADMK workers and supporters became a regular feature.
The entrance area to Apollo Hospital where she underwent treatment became a makeshift prayer ground and across the state, milk pot prayer processions and tonsuring of head by partymen were often seen. For DMK workers, repeated hospitalisation of its nonagenarian leader Karunanidhi due to illness caused anxiety though he is now on the path of recovery, according to Kauvery Hospital where he is getting treated.
With the passing away of Jayalalithaa, AIADMK leaders wanted her aide VK Sasikala to lead the party, with more functionaries voicing their support to her to ascend the seat of governance as chief minister as well. Though Tamil Nadu's legal battle to get Cauvery waters for standing crops continues, the issue witnessed a series of heightened protests and sporadic violence in the state during September and October.
Such protests, spanning several weeks, had an adverse impact on the common people especially in the districts bordering Karnataka including Krishnagiri. A bandh supported by farmers outfits and opposition parties was held and a cadre belonging to Nam Thamizhar Katchi died after setting himself ablaze.
People walking several kilometres from Hosur (Tamil Nadu) to reach Bengaluru, or to return to the state from Karnataka towns became everyday stories. As violence took a serious turn in September in Karnataka with the torching of 30 buses in Bengaluru of a private operator from Tamil Nadu, the situation turned for worse. Bus services, truck transport got shut completely for weeks together and inter-state borders were even sealed.
Cauvery issue also gained much political traction during September and a divide erupted among political parties over it. Though Jayalalithaa had already resumed the legal battle in Supreme Court for Cauvery waters before being admitted to hospital on 22 September, the issue was taken up in a big way by main opposition DMK to target the AIADMK regime. Weeks preceding the November polls, the DMK stepped up pressure on the government to convene a special House session and convene an-all party meeting and held a rally on the issue in Tamil Nadu's hub of Cauvery delta at Thanjavur.
Later, it held an "all-party meeting" which drew flak from ruling AIADMK and other parties like BJP. Leading to a further divide among parties on Cauvery issue, while DMK MPs separately called on President Pranab Mukherjee, AIADMK MPs marched to the Prime Minister's Office and submitted a memorandum seeking action.
Comparatively, though Opposition parties gave lesser attention to by-polls as only ruling parties have won in such polls in Tamil Nadu in the past decades, DMK took the polls for Thanjavur and Aravakkurichi and the bypoll to Thirupparankundram quite seriously. DMK treasurer Stalin extensively toured all the poll bound areas and taunted the ruling regime with his pet "the government is non-functional" barb.
The ruling party won comfortably in all the three constituencies. With Tamil Nadu government deciding to implement the Food Security Act, it was cited by DMK treasurer Stalin as beginning of an "U-turn" by Tamil Nadu government in view of the hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa. He said such schemes which were opposed vehemently by Jayalalithaa were now allegedly being given concurrence by the state government after her hospitalisation. He even accused the Centre of "intimidating" the state over such issues.
In August, a train heist stunned Tamil Nadu in which Rs 5.78 crore was stolen by breaking open the roof of a parcel van attached to the Salem-Chennai Express. In October, two of the SIMI activists wanted by Tamil Nadu police in connection with the 2014 May train blast case in Chennai (in which a techie was killed) were among the eight killed in an encounter in Bhopal bringing curtains down in the two-year-old case.
Arrest of Dawood Suleiman, the kingpin behind the al Qaeda inspired module "Base Movement" responsible for blasts in court complexes in South India and his associates including N Abbas Ali of Madurai was a major breakthrough for the NIA in Tamil Nadu.
Updated Date: Dec 22, 2016 11:43:11 IST