As AIADMK grapples with power struggle post-Jayalalithaa, Kollywood stars eye political vacuum in Tamil Nadu
The year of 2017 was politically tumultuous for Tamil Nadu keeping the ruling AIADMK busy in setting its house in order as it faced storm after storm
Chennai: The year of 2017 was politically tumultuous for Tamil Nadu keeping the ruling AIADMK busy in setting its house in order as it faced storm after storm post-Jayalalithaa and the year also saw cinema veterans Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan hinting at entering public life.
'Resort politics' came to dominate the headlines even as a new dispensation under Chief Minister K Palaniswamy took over following a rebellion by his predecessor O Panneerselvam against VK Sasikala in February.
In winds of change, TTV Dhinakaran, who was initially appointed AIADMK deputy chief by his aunt Sasikala, was now struggling to stay afloat with dwindling legislators' support and the challenge of a unified AIADMK.
Sensing the vacuum, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan dropped adequate hints of a political plunge, keeping alive a tradition of cinema stars graduating to politics.
Former chief ministers - the late CN Annadurai, M G Ramachandran (MGR) and Jayalalithaa - besides other actors like S S Rajendran, Sarath Kumar and D Napolean have forayed into politics for successful careers.
According to Rajinikant, the "system is rotten" as he asked his fans to "prepare for a war".
Haasan, in particular, went ballistic against the ruling AIADMK on corruption, throwing regular barbs against the government, with the ministers criticising him. A self-declared rationalist, he courted controversy when he hit out at what he called Hindu extremism.
Ailing DMK chief M Karunanidhi, now in his 90s, too is not a novice to Tamil Nadu filmdom, having been a successful script-writer.
The demise of Jayalalithaa in December last year found its echo during the entire 2017, with the state government constituting a one-man commission to inquire into the
circumstances and situation leading to her hospitalisation in 22 September and death on 5 December, 2016.
The internal churning in the ruling AIADMK dominated the headlines, starting in February.
What seemed to have been a smooth ascension to power for Sasikala came a cropper with Panneerselvam throwing a spanner in the works.
Having elected the AIADMK chief last December, the decks were cleared for elevation of Jayalalithaa's close confidante as chief minister, when Sasikala was elected AIADMK's Legislature Party leader on 5 February.
However, the then chief minister Panneerselvam had misgivings.
Jayalalithaa's 'Man Friday' and now deputy chief minister Panneerselvam made a sensational claim two days later that he was forced to make way for Sasikala's elevation.
He sat on meditation at the memorial of Jayalalithaa in Marina beach, sowing the first seeds of a revolt against Sasikala.
Panneerselvam's rebellion virtually set the cat among the pigeons, as an otherwise tight knit and disciplined AIADMK saw the first split in its ranks, decades after the death of its founder, MGR, in 1987.
The party was then divided between Jayalalithaa and VN Janaki, MGR's widow, before the former united it and brought it under the 'two leaves' symbol.
With an imminent trust vote staring at her party, Sasikala lodged her MLAs at a resort at nearby Koovathur for days together in February, earning the label 'resort politics'.
Sasikala herself made repeated trips to keep the morale of her legislators high.
In the meantime, she also met then governor Ch Vidysagar Rao and staked claim to form the government.
However, the Supreme Court, which had reserved judgement in the Rs 66.66 crore disproportionate assets cases in which Jayalalithaa was the main accused, convicted Sasikala, dashing her hopes of leading the state.
The apex court awarded her a four-year jail term, which she is currently serving in Bengaluru.
As a parting shot, Sasikala brought back her relatives Dhinakaran and S Venkatesh into AIADMK, making Dhinakaran her deputy and in-charge of affairs.
The two were among Sasikala's relatives who were expelled by Jayalalithaa in 2011.
Then Sasikala loyalist Palaniswamy was elected Legislature Party leader, becoming the second chief minister of the state in less than two months after Panneerselvam, who took over following the demise of Jayalalithaa in December 2016.
Meanwhile, the two camps led by Panneerselvam and the chief minister continued to face-off, even as the ruling faction fielded Dhinakaran in the April 12 bypoll to RK Nagar, earlier held by Jayalalithaa, which was later cancelled.
The Election Commission rescinded the poll following complaints of money power.
However, things soon took an unexpected turn when Palaniswamy revolted against Dhinakaran, with a section of the state cabinet announcing sidelining the former MP.
Panneerselvam and Palaniswamy merged their respective factions after many rounds of talks in August, a move that further agitated the Dhinakaran camp.
The very next day, 19 MLAs supporting the beleaguered leader revolted against the chief minister, later prompting their disqualification as legislators by Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal. One MLA later switched over to the ruling camp.
The patch-up between Panneerselvam and Palaniswamy saw the former becoming deputy chief minister in the government.
Later, a general council of the unified AIADMK sacked Sasikala as interim general secretary and annulled all appointments made by her, effectively targeting Dhinakaran.
The camp got a shot in its arm when the Election Commission awarded the 'two leaves' symbol to it.
Now, Dhinakaran is fighting the December 21 bypoll to RK Nagar as an independent.
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