The acting Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao has done well to ask for a ‘factual report’ on what happened ahead, and around, the trust vote in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, Saturday last, that saw violence and mayhem, which unfortunately has had precedence in the annals of this State. The role of the Speaker should also come under spotlight.
The shameful events of Saturday were starkly reminiscent of the floor test in 1988 when the ill-fated Janaki government, which fell soon after, was declared winner under similar dubious circumstance.
It is quite conceivable that Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami would have scraped through even if the full strength of the Assembly was present inside. But his camp, allegedly backed by a partisan Speaker, was not ready to take any chance and the voting was carried out only after the DMK members were physically carried off. That the DMK members did not cover themselves with any glory is also an undeniable fact. They created plenty of acrimony and behaved in a manner that was unbecoming of elected representatives of the people. The DMK was miffed by the fact that the Speaker didn’t allow for a secret ballot. The Speaker, who lays the rules within the House, did behave in a manner that gives room for allegations of partiality.
Though the Speaker was well within his rights to decline the demand, there was a case for secret ballot, as in popular belief most of the AIADMK MLAs were kept in forced confinement and under duress to vote for the government. A secret vote would have kept their identity in tact and that would have helped matters.
But alas that didn’t happen, and the House was reduced to a sham as all hell broke loose. Legislators cutting across party lines created pandemonium that was at once deplorable and devious. Papers were shredded, shirts were torn, and the image of DMK leader M K Stalin being carried out of the House by the watch and ward staff, and he later emerging with his shirt buttons undone on the road, will be played out many times underlining the sordid spectacle that unfolded.
That the winning team, ‘the Edappadi government’, did not see it wrong to enjoy the victory on the floor of the House in the name of V K Sasikala, now a convict, should worry all people who value democracy. For real democracy to be practised in India, it is important that political parties function democratically. However, political parties are wary of internal democracy and prefer centralisation of power. This is the condition of every major political party in India, including new entrant Aam Aadmi Party. Without internal democracy and transparency, political funding becomes a black hole that facilitates corruption and generation of black money. In recent years, parties are also auctioning tickets, which, in turn, prompts MPs and MLAs to use their stint in the Assemblies and Parliament to recoup their expenditure. It is vicious.
Anyway, now that he has won, there are some huge tasks in front of Edappadi Palaniswami. The first challenge for Palaniswami would be how he deals with the ‘Mannargudi’ team, the extended family of Sasikala which is looked upon with disfavour by the masses. The bureaucracy has been in serious drift in the last couple of months as first Jayalalithaa’s illness and then the internecine war in the ruling party took its toll. While the Sasikala camp would put relentless pressure on Palaniswami to shake up the steel frame, his sagacity will lie in de-politicising the bureaucracy and sharpening its efficiency and speed of deliverance.
A witch-hunt of those bureaucrats who were loyal to Panneerselvam would serve little purpose. Instead, it would vitiate the atmosphere further. Development would need to be a priority area as would be the meticulous implementation of late Jayalalithaa’s welfare measures which brought succour to the poor. The elections to the State Assembly are a distant four-and-a-quarter years away. That should be time for Palaniswami to consolidate and move forward speedily and purposefully. And, hope is what has sustained the human race so far.