Sunday, October 2, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Rise of Subramaniam Swamy in Tamil Nadu politics

M. C. Rajan Chennai, October 2, 2011 | UPDATED 12:49 IST
Rise of Subramaniam Swamy in Tamil Nadu politics
J. Jayalalithaa and Subramaniam Swamy
AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa quickly dumped Swamy after using him to
pull down Vajpayee's government

When he took on the authoritarian regime of J. Jayalalithaa during the
fag end of her first tenure, Subramaniam Swamy was seen as a crusader
against corruption. By setting a deadline every now and then to get
her government dismissed and even securing the then governor M. Channa
Reddy's sanction to prosecute her in the TANSI land deal case, he
proved to be the enfant terrible.

But that image did not last long as he made a somersault by teaming up
with her soon after the AIADMK czarina lost power and became her
courier on the national political arena. Even that was shortlived, for
the diva dumped him once she toppled Atal Bihari Vajpayee's first

"Good riddance," was the diva's reasoning then for showing him the
door. It proved to be curtains for him in the state. For, from
thereon, Swamy turned out to be a neta providing nothing more than
comic relief on the sidelines of the acrimonious Dravidian political

Though he had ancestral roots in Sholavandan, a sleepy yet fertile
village near Madurai, he couldn't claim to have any political base
anywhere in the state. Yet, when he landed in state politics, the
Hardvard-trained economist attempted to take over the opposition space
by positioning himself as the one who could take on the might of

Even at that point, there was no dearth of political tamasha from Dr
Swamy. In late 1995, his branding of the late LTTE supremo V.
Prabhakaran, as an "international pariah" created a furore and a case
was registered against him under the PCR Act. With the Jayalalithaa
government out to arrest him, he was forced to undergo an image
makeover, changing to suits and dyeing his hair to evade the police.
To mollify the Dalits, he went to the extent of assuring them to get
the Oxford English Dictionary to remove the term 'pariah'.

Jayalalithaa detested him so much that AIADMK women's wing volunteers,
who gathered in large numbers, welcomed him at the High Court by
raising their skirts. As a petitioner against the AIADMK supremo, he
had come there to argue the case himself. The period also saw Swamy
share the dais with DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi, who always kept him
at an arm's length.

But Jayalalithaa had only helped him enhance his image as a crusader.
In the 1996 election, he had polled over one lakh votes in Madurai and
came second in the race. When the assembly polls came, Swamy was left
to fend for himself as the DMK teamed up with the Tamil Maanila
Congress and romped home. He lent the Janata Party symbol to Dalit
leader K. Krishnasamy, who won from Ottapidaram, cashing in on the
police atrocities against Dalits in Kodiyankulam. He too deserted
Swamy in search of an independent Dalit identity.

Though he had played a role in bringing down Jayalalithaa, the diva
chose to put the past behind her and walked the extra mile to wish
Swamy on his birthday at his party office. She also gifted him a Ford

What the team had accomplished is there for all to see. With AIADMK
support, he won the Lok Sabha election from Madurai and he assumed the
role of Rajguru for the Poes Garden diva, who had reportedly pressed
for making him Finance Minister to free herself from her legal
tangles. It was not to be and the famed 'Tea Party' graced by Sonia
Gandhi saw the downfall of the Vajpayee government in 1998. Soon
thereafter, Jayalaltihaa dumping Swamy forever.

IN THE election that followed, he came after a Dalit party, Viduthalai
Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), which retained the second spot in Madurai.
It also saw the eclipse of Swamy in the political discourse of the
state, though he manages to raise his head every now and then by
raking us issues dear to the Hindutva crowd, like the arrest of Kanchi
Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, the Sethu Samudram Project and the
governemnt takeover of the Chidambaram Nataraja temple administration.

Still, Swamy could not recover from that fall from grace or regain his
credibility. At best he remains a rabble rouser.

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