Sujata Anandan

SOME CALL it tit for tat. For J Jajayalalitha it is Justice with a capital ‘J’. For Karunanidhi it spells V for Vendetta.

And for most people of Tamil Nadu it is a feeling of déjà vu as the politics of vengeance plays itself on the streets of Madras and is beamed into their homes by channels sympathetic to the former CM.

The DMK leader should have expected this knock on the door and at midnight, as it eventually happened.

For Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha made it clear from the start she intended to humiliate him even more than he had done her in the past.

It has been Jayalalitha’s intention to make sure Karunanidhi got a taste of his own medicine. That he is lodged in the “same jail, in the same cell” that she was.

That he “eats the same food out of the same thali and sleeps in the same bed with the same blanket” to cover himself.

Sounds like a Bollywood film? Well, the main players are after all an actress of yore and a script writer. If the ageing script writer was expecting mercy, it was going to happen.

For, did he or his supporters show any sympathy towards Jayalalitha simply because she was a woman?

Jayalalitha seems to be avenging more than her arrest. She apparently has never forgiven the fact that Karunanidhi’s men manhandled her in the Legislative Assembly a decade ago.

Jayalalitha was looking for sustainable cases to nail Karunanidhi and his son, Madras Mayor M K Stalin, from the very beginning.

Any small complaint or grievance since mid-May was converted into a FIR and action promptly taken against the alleged offenders.

In early June she almost came close to arresting Stalin on one such complaint. The DMK was prepared then for the latter’s arrest but nothing happened.

The DMK’s failure to go on the offensive perhaps emboldened Jayalalitha in the audacious move. Soon after the party’s defeat, the DMK came up with a weakish response to the possibility of the arrests of their rank and file. They would set up lawyers’ committees to help their workers and leaders combat the cases that the government might file against them.

In retrospect, the party’s supporters now feel that the move was meaningless

The flyovers case that Jayalalitha has now slapped on Karunanidhi and a former minister for public works shows that it is not so much the corruption but the humiliating manner of their arrests that is so full of meaning for her.

The DMK wrongly believed that she might follow their route when they sought to destroy her political career. They registered cases, moved the courts and arrested her on court orders. All done constitutionally, as DMK supporters point out.

But also with doses of political motives in beginning this game of vendetta. Probably, the DMK has never been able to accept Jayalalitha as a political leader in her own right.

The DMK perhaps believed that destroying Jayalalitha would destroy the only other party of consequence in Tamil Nadu to rival theirs. Leaving the way clear for them to strike a deal with the ruling parties at the Centre, much as MGR had done with the Congress in the past, helping the latter win Lok Sabha seats and keeping the State to himself. But the DMK had reckoned without Jayalalitha’s patience, intelligence, political dexterity and luck.

And they also reckoned without Jayalalitha’s sense of vengeance. DMK supporters taking to the streets today are evoking memories of the Emergency.

Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had far more dignity and political acumen than Jayalalitha, paid for the excesses of that period with a similar attempt at victimisation by those who would not be generous in their victory.

But on return to power she chose to be magnanimous to those who would have humiliated her by similar arrests and attempts at annihilating the Congress.

And there it all ended. Aged leaders like Morarji Desai and Charan Singh retired to their private domains and are today nearly forgotten by history.

Jayalalitha, though, is not the statesman that Mrs Gandhi ultimately was. Nor is she living in times when commitment to national goals and the people of the country were more important than personal gratification and oneupmanship.

So history repeats itself. And while Karunandhi, who lived out much of his politics in Mrs Gandhi’s times, cools his heels in prison until July 10, he might take the time to remember that those who forget history are condemned to relive it.

As well might Jayalalitha. For if the Centre were to place the TN Assembly under suspended animation, she might soon find the boot fitting the other foot. History might then be repeated as farce, a third time round.

Courtesy : Hindustantimes
Mumbai - June 30, 2001.
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