The Curious Case of #opsvssasikala


This is not a post to take sides. But a tangential thought on current political situation in Tamil Nadu – an attempt to be polemical.

It has been quite a busy week in Tamil Nadu politics. While the state has been incapacitated for months now, suddenly there is a burst of activity around the Chief Ministership of Sasikala Natarajan. While the non-Tamil media covers it as a power struggle (a la Akhilesh and Mulayam, Nitesh and Jitan Manjhi), there is a larger undercurrent, which lies at the basis of this ‘power struggle,’ if this can be called one. This can only be felt if you know of Tamil politics or have been living in TN for long.

To almost all I spoke with, CM Sasikala is unimaginable, unpalatable and unacceptable. This begs the question why. The immediate answer is that the CM post, power and political party must not become a family asset. This is the premise which is being put by the current CM Paneerselvam. The other offshoot reasons are – lack of capacity to be a CM and perception of being corrupt and goondaism. But, family politics remains the dominant theme, the proximate cause.

But, why?

Family politics is not new for India and certainly not new for TN. The grand old party Congress, though has many able leaders, still circle around a family for few generations now. There is Naidu family in Andhra, KCR in Telengana, Gowda in Karnataka, Thackeray, Pawar and Munde in Maharashtra, Chauhan in MP, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh, Patnaik in Odisha, Yadavs in UP and Bihar, Scindia in Rajastan, Badal in Punjab, Mufti and Abdullah in Kashmir and many more.

If this be the case, why is there an opposition to Sasikala? If we can accept family politics all throughout India and especially in TN, why is there an opposition to Sasikala under the name of ‘family politics’? There is no logical argument to accept rest of the political dynasties in India and deny that throne to her.

The other reason stated is that she lacks competency and capacity. Especially when she is compared with OPS, who is a sitting CM and has been a CM twice before, she comes out as and rightly is, administratively inexperienced. It again begs the question – how much experience did OPS have when he first took over as CM? Well we can say that he has been a worker who had held multiple positions in the party. But the other accusation that Sasikala and her family has had iron grip over the party, if true, will nullify that argument on experience. Unless you are competent, you cannot control a large party. Whether that control is held because of fear, manipulation, blackmail, love, respect, admiration or lack of choice is immaterial. It is impossible to control a party for long, even by proxy, unless someone (or the group) is competent.

She lacks oratory skill (or she has zero oratory skill) and so far, has not publicly expressed herself in English or Hindi. But how can this be a reason for an administrative post? Since when Tamil chauvinism seek fluency in English and Hindi to accept a person as CM? Were we expecting a copy of Late. Jayalalitha (it pains to prefix Late)? If so, for a society which boasts of diversity in people, their skills and their abilities, that’s incongruent.

Again, why not her?

Goondaism. Are politicians in rest of India sants and saints?

Corruption. We are talking about a state in union of India. Should we even think?

So, why not her?


Where does this hatred towards her come from? The family and the way they have conducted in the past and are conducting themselves now.

It is quite astounding to see grown men in their fifties and sixties suddenly having moist eyes and lumpen throat while speaking about JJ’s death and the manner in which the current aspirant CM had conducted herself throughout that hospitalization and subsequently the mysterious death. I cannot rubbish it as acting; for I can see eyes glisten in many men over the last few days. Or let’s call it acting, an attempt to fool us for political power and a manipulation of our emotional psyche, if that can be called one. But this is not restricted to people who want power. This is genuinely felt throughout the state, blaming one family for the loss of a leader. This hate is not unreasonable. If you cannot come out to talk to the press for entire 75 days and can come multiple time for power, yes, the the love and loss is manifested as hate, which is partially justified.

We see JJ’s follies were because of Sasikala. Let’s start from that damned adoption. The subsequent opulent wedding, which the entire state despised and threw her away from power in 1996. That election saw even JJ lose her seat. That was the wave. It was a start. By then the ‘family’ had acquired wealth and power of unknown proportions and how! An able administrator like JJ would have known what was happening in her name and she did know when she threw Sasikala out but let her in subsequently.

Let’s come to us, the public. In Sasikala, we saw a vent, an outlet to box, pack and deliver, what we legitimately found as mis-steps. Maybe, that’s because we kept the leader on a high pedestal. We hate because one residence has been occupied by her which, for all legal reasons are not hers. But we conveniently forgot that there was one smiling guy called as Balu who ran a jewellery in Chennai. We hate because we see elected representatives are not coming out and talking to us, asking for our opinion and sometimes take the tone of threat. But we conveniently forget that almost all elected representatives are like that. We hate her because our elected representatives are bending over backwards to coronate her as CM; forgetting who made them invertebrates.

In all, this OPSvsSasikala is an easy vent for our inaction in not telling JJ, what we are telling our representatives now – lose Sasikala and come seek our vote next time. Did we not demand this of or from JJ because of respect to her or because of our cowardice? Its complicated.

The ascendancy of Sasikala is a mirror on us, the society. The problem lies with us and not only with her or her family who is not guilty of anything in court of law but guilty over thousand times in the court of public opinion.

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