Flashback 2014: Tamil Nadu in flux, political actors face uncertainty

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Chennai, Dec 18: The year 2014 could be described as one of rapid change for Tamil Nadu - most of it owing to court decisions - with political big-wigs staring at uncertainty.

The state saw the exit of J. Jayalalithaa as chief minister following her conviction in a corruption case, the appointment of finance minister O Panneerselvam as the new chief minister, the Supreme Court deciding the Mullaperiyar Dam case in Tamil Nadu's favour, the expulsion of M.K. Alagiri from the DMK and former union minister G.K. Vasan reviving the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) after quitting the Congress.

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The year also saw Jayalalithaa's AIADMK bagging 37 of the state's 39 seats in the April-May general election and the Vaiko-led MDMK walking out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over its Sri Lankan policy.

"It is a year of rapid turbulence for the state's political scenario. There was greater uncertainty for the actors in the political arena. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) replaced the Congress in the state as a national party," Ramu Manivannan, professor of political science in the University of Madras, told IANS.

On Sep 27, Jayalalithaa was sent to the Bangalore Central Jail after being sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs.100 crore for corruption, dealing a huge blow to the charismatic former actor who, ahead of the general election, had dreams of becoming prime minister.

As a consequence the 66-year-old former movie star was disqualified from being a member of the Tamil Nadu legislature and lost her chief minister's post.

Pronouncing his verdict on a legal battle that began in 1996, judge John Michael Cunha held Jayalalithaa and three others guilty of amassing wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income.

The other three are long-time Jayalalithaa associate V.K. Sasikala, now disowned foster son V.N. Sudhakaran and former aide J. Illavarasi. All three were also sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs.10 crore each.

The convictions came under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code.

Subsequently, the apex court released Jayalalithaa on bail.

It was certainly a big blow for Jayalalithaa who was basking under two major glories - winning the Lok Sabha elections and the apex court allowing an increase in the storage level at the Mullaperiyar Dam.

The Supreme Court May 5 decreed in favour of Tamil Nadu and permitted the state to raise the water level in the Mullaperiyar Dam to 142 feet from 136 feet. Though the dam is located in Kerala it is owned, maintained and operated by Tamil Nadu.

For the other major Tamil Party, the DMK, the year began with the suspension of party president M. Karunanidhi's son and former union minister Alagiri for continuously criticising party leaders and also defaming the party.

In the general election, the DMK and its former ally, the Congress, drew blank.

According to Manivannan, the DMK is beset with internal problems.

In order to protect his turf with his Congress party drawing blank in the general election and no one to ally with former union minister, Vasan floated his new party in November.

Towards the end of 2014, the MDMK led by Vaiko quit the NDA protesting against the central government's stand on Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu's water row with Kerala and Karnataka.

"The political scene in the state is in a flux. It is in a transition mode which may lead to new political formations ahead of the (2016) assembly polls," Manivannan said.

The year also saw the state assembly passing a law to remove the ban by clubs, hotels, companies and other organisations on wearing the dhoti and other traditional Indian dresses.

During the year, five fishermen were sentenced to death by a Sri Lankan court for smuggling narcotics - and were freed after the Indian government intervened.

For the common man it was the year of hike in the prices of milk, power and other items.

On the industrial side, the state continued to suffer from power cuts and mobile phone maker Nokia India closed down its plant near here following tax demands by the central and state governments.

Other major happenings during the year:

* BJP and Congress state units got new chiefs

* Ten people were held guilty in the Kumbakonam school fire that killed 94 children and injured 18 in 2004

* Residential apartment under construction here collapsed, killing around 60 people

* Madras High Court ordered probe by IAS officer U. Sagayam in the granite scam much against the wishes of the state government.

* The state government announced a global investors meet in 2015.

IANS

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