No tears are likely to be shed at the dismissal of Mrs. Janaki Ramachandran as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu barely 24 days after she was hurriedly inducted in that office except, of course, by her own followers. On the face of it, the step appears to be a victory for Ms. Jayalalitha but a closer analysis of the changing scenario seems to favor Congress (I). After remaining in wilderness for more than a decade, the BarnalaBadal syndrome offers a fresh ray of hope for the Congress (I) in Janaki, Jayalalitha tussel. It is not that a ripe apple is going to providentially fall into its lap, but the shrewd game that Delhi has played promises rich dividends. The State Governor, Mr. S.L. Khurana, acting at the behest of Delhi, departed from the constitutional norms when he invited Mrs. Ramachandran to form the government rather than telling the AIADMK Legislature party to elect their leader. Since Mr. V.P. Nendunchezhian had already been administered the oath of office as the acting Chief Minister of the State, there was no hurry in inviting Mrs. Ramchandran. The Governor should have waited for the decision of the AIADMK legislature party and honored its verdict.

Evidently, the Governor had different designs. He had no use for the democratic traditions and constitutional norms as his brief from Delhi was to break up the AIADMK. He knew that Ms. Jayalalitha would react to Mrs. Janaki’s appointment and move would result in a vertical split in the party. The events so far have followed the carefully calculated design. The situation now would be allowed to grow murkier to a point where the two factions of the once powerful AIADMK would use every possible strategy to wipe out the other. Meanwhile, the Congress (I) would concentrate on mobilizing the voters by extensively exploiting the Governor’s rule. The elections would be held only at a point of time which the Congress (I) considers most opportune for its victory.

There is, however, a snag in this otherwise well-rehearsed drama which can totally spoil the cake that Congress (I) is so ardently coveting. It is the Tamil confrontation in Sri Lanka where yesterday’s freedom fighters are now being described by the Indian government as “terrorists”. Delhi felt no compunctions at arming and training these very “terrorists” to secure a permanent foothold on the Sri Lankan territory: After gaining an effective foothold there and deploying over 50,000 troops on a foreign soil, it finds Tamil guerrillas no more relevant to its designs. They have been dumped most unceremoniously. Incensed by this betrayal, the guerrillas have turned their guns against the Indian troops and they enjoy a widespread sympathy in Tamil Nadu. This sympathy would determine the attitude of the contending factions of the AIADMK towards the uneasy Indo Sri Lanka peace accord. At least one faction is likely to depart from M.G. Ramachandran’s categorical support to the accord if the popular opinion turns against the Indian troops for killing the Tamil guerrillas.

Congress (I) in this respect is seriously handicapped. It cannot take a posture contrary to that of the Indian government. Ms. Jayalalitha may not also come out very strongly against the accord because of the electoral alliance that her faction is anxious to strike with Congress (I). The supporters of Janaki would certainly play on the Tamil sentiment and condemn the use of troops against Tamil guerrillas. If they succeed in turning the tide in their favor, the accord with Sri Lanka would be jeopardized. Besides, the callous killing of Tamil guerrillas by Indian troops in Sri Lanka can create a situation that may not be very conducive for the national interests. The festering discontent can push it over the brink and Delhi may find itself facing another Punjab in South India also. Tamil guerrillas have again regrouped and have stepped up their campaign for an independent homeland in Sri Lanka leaving little choice for Delhi. The course of events in the coming months will be watched with considerable interest as it can make the Congress (I) again develop its lost power base in the South or it can as well lead to the disintegration of India. The stakes are dangerously high and Delhi itself will be responsible for the result, be it bouquets or brickbats.


Article extracted from this publication >> February 5, 1988