A month after Jayalalithaa: What has changed in Tamil Nadu?

Jayalalithaa has passed on, but has left behind the legacy of hero worship and prostration, and also a duel power centre.

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A month after J Jayalalithaa's demise much has changed in Tamil Nadu; leadership, administration, political game-plan as well as fight for legacy. But other things like sycophancy, the prostration and emotionally charged hero worship remain unchanged. Weeks of leadership crisis in the AIADMK ended with Sasikala Natarajan being appointed as the general secretary of the party, but Jayalalithaa's photos continue to be part of all government as well as party events.

What has changed?

Cyclone Vardah

Cyclone Vardah was the first challenge that the AIADMK government had to face soon after Jayalalithaa's demise. O Panneerselvam had already taken over as the chief minister. Having learnt a lesson from the 2015 flood situation, the Tamil Nadu government acted effectively and swiftly on precautions as well as rescue and rehabilitation requirements for cyclone Vardah. O Panneerselvam led by example when he visited rehabilitation camps and urged his ministers to be on ground zero to assist in operations. A far cry from helicopter rides and Poes Garden orders of J Jayalalithaa's leadership.

DMK's M K Stalin meets Panneerselvam

In a move that people of Tamil Nadu hadn't witness for decades, a leader of the opposition met the chief minister of Tamil Nadu to discuss drought and farmer situation in the state. DMK's M K Stalin and TN CM O Panneerselvam met on January 4 making it historic.

Dual power centre

For the first time in decades, a dual power centre can be seen in the AIADMK. One person has always been at the helm of affairs in the party as well as the government. Jayalalithaa held the post of party General secretary as well as the post of Tamil Nadu's chief minister, this time around things have changed. Even as the chorus for a single power centre is growing and is probably inevitable, Sasikala leads the party while Panneerselvam leads the government for now.

What has not

Despite Jayalalithaa's demise, the sycophancy refuses to die down. Even the choice of AIADMK's leadership was based on sycophancy. While her political acumen cannot be ignored, Sasikala Natarajan was unanimously chosen as AIADMK's general secretary as an extended result of sycophancy for Jayalalithaa. Despite not ever being part of active politics, Sasikala was chosen as the party's leader since she was a 'close friend' of Jayalalithaa.

The prostration, if not entirely in its literal sense, at least in spirit has refused to die. Party cadres, leaders, journalists and celebrities alike continue to prostrate (literally and figuratively) before Sasikala as they had before Jayalalithaa earlier. She is the new 'Amma'.


Hero worship

Hero worship refuses to change despite Jayalalithaa's passing. AIADMK's general council meet saw a chair dedicated to Jayalalithaa's chair decorated and empty. Cabinet meetings always saw a picture of Jayalalithaa evidently placed on the chief minister's desk. The newly appointed general secretary of the party Sasikala Natarajan's first public speech was more a eulogy to Jayalalithaa than an address to the party cadres.

The choice of sycophancy was so large that even official communication was addressed to Sasikala as against to O Panneerselvam who hold the chief minister's office. While public anger against Sasikala is huge, AIADMK hopes to take shelter under Jayalalithaa's image to push Sasikala into electoral foray.

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