Unstated state of Jaya’s health triggers rumoursBy VIRENDRA KAPOOR | Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - 16:59
Future of AIADMK a cause of worry in Tamil Nadu.
A MATTER OF HIGH OFFICE
Succession in the DMK was more or less a settled issue, with the family patriarch M. Karunanidhi having anointed the younger son, Stalin, his political heir a couple of years ago even in the teeth of bitter resistance by M.K. Alagiri, his elder son from another wife. Why, then, did the DMK founder feel the need to reiterate once again that Stalin would succeed him? And why now? The only plausible explanation is that Karunanidhi did so in order to draw public attention to the confusion prevailing in the AIADMK following the illness of its supreme leader and state Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
Though at 92 the DMK patriarch is no spring chicken himself, and has had serious ailments, some setting off rumours about his own extremely precarious health, Karunanidhi has most gracelessly hinted at the worst about the health of Jayalalithaa, especially in the first few weeks of her latest hospitalization. If since then he seems to have quietened down, it is, in all likelihood, because he has come to believe the worst about his arch rival. Our politicians are not above entertaining such ghoulish thoughts.
Now, whether she has a lesser or very serious medical condition, the truth is that no one has been allowed to see her. The unending retinue of VVIPs making a beeline for Chennai returns after marking its presence in a visitors’ book kept in the hospital. Without doubt, the owners of the private hospital, who are widely known to keep on the right side of powerful politicians, could well have confided in Karunanidhi about the actual state of health of his bête noire.
Now that the AIADMK government has begun to function with O. Panneerselvam yet again appointed as acting Chief Minister at the behest of the state Governor, the arrangement could well continue for years. It was only in May 2016 that Jayalalithaa won another five-year term in power. Or she may well defy doomsayers and bounce back sooner than Karunanidhi or anyone else in the DMK realises.
But complete secrecy about a sitting Chief Minister’s health does not make for good administration. Protocol in this regard needs to be framed clearly in order to avoid confusion and end wasteful speculation. Transparency is an essential function of a vibrant democracy anywhere. In western democracies it is more or less obligatory for the people to be told about the health of a high elected official. Notice how they have sought to make an issue of Hillary Clinton’s health in the on-going presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, public debate over Jayalalithaa’s health has occasioned recall about the condition of a number of senior politicians who too were rendered unwell following strokes. They lie either in their homes or in hospitals. Among them, the condition of the 70-year-old Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, the Congress leader from West Bengal, who was I&B Minister when he suffered a paralysing stroke, is said to be the worst. He has lain in a vegetative state in a New Delhi hospital for over eight years. Even his close family members no longer feel the need to visit him.
Slightly better probably is the condition of the 86-year-old George Fernandes. He is on medical support round-the-clock, but is confined to bed in his wife Laila Fernandes’ home in Delhi’s Panchsheel Enclave. Trained staff from a hospital chain attends to him 24x7.
Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee too stays bed-ridden in his Krishna Menon Marg house. He too is being looked after by a trained team of nurses and doctors. Now 91, following a stroke in 2005 Vajpayee had lost his speech, but physically his condition is slightly better than both Dasmunshi’s and Fernandes’. His foster daughter Namita, husband Ranjan and their daughter Niharika tend to him devotedly.
Another BJP leader who remains completely immobilised following a severe stroke is Jaswant Singh, a former Foreign and Finance Minister in the Vajpayee government. Singh suffered the stroke a couple of weeks after the installation of the Narendra Modi government. After spending months in the Army hospital in Delhi, the 78-year-old Singh showed some improvement and was shifted to his New Delhi house. He has remained bed-ridden ever since.
KARUNA & MULAYAM: SHARED TROUBLE
While there is a question mark over the fate of the ruling AIADMK should something happen to its supremo Jayalalithaa, who has remained unmarried all her life, the problem with both DMK and the Samajwadi Party is that their founders actually married multiple times. And that has become the cause of trouble for Karunanidhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav in ensuring orderly succession in the parties the two had founded. Karunanidhi might want his elder son M.K. Alagiri to accept his step-brother Stalin as the next leader of the DMK, but he cannot be certain that after his death Alagiri will not split the party. As for Mulayam, there is speculation in Lucknow that one reason for the on-going internal feud in the Samajwadi Party is actually the unrealised political ambitions of Prateek Yadav, Akhilesh’s stepbrother from Mulayam’s second wife. She is said to be instigating trouble for the UP Chief Minister from behind-the-scenes. There are, then, some uses of monogamy, after all.
ANTI-QUOTA IN GUJARAT, PRO IN PUNJAB
When Hardik Patel first emerged on the public scene, rallying tens of thousands of Patel youths on the streets of Gujarat, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav had made cooing noises, hoping to use him to further their anti-Modi agenda. But upon learning that the young Hardik’s real objective will spell the death-knell of caste-based reservations they soon distanced themselves from him. That was last year. But this did not prevent the ambitious Arvind Kejriwal from seeking the support of Hardik Patel. When the Aam Aadmi Party leader went to Gujarat recently, he wooed Patel openly, lavishing high praise on him.
Before he floated his own party, Kejriwal had himself supported the demand for the abrogation of caste-based reservations. Therefore, his wooing of Hardik Patel should not surprise anyone. But how then can he reconcile his anti-reservation demand with his attempt to win the forthcoming Punjab poll which has nearly one-third Scheduled Caste voters. Or does he think that what he does in Gujarat will remain hidden from the voters in Punjab?
MODERN FUEL FOR DHABAS
Anyone who has travelled by road from Delhi to Chandigarh and beyond would be familiar with Murthal and its famous roadside eateries. The small town some 40 km from Delhi is invariably the halt for a hot meal at all times of the day or night. So, it was only natural that when one of the more popular eateries, namely, Sukhdev Dhaba, switched to piped natural gas to fire its chullahs, the Indraprastha Gas Limited, the public sector company, noted the fact with pride on its website. This in turn led an IGL employee to post an innocuous query: will Sukhdev Dhaba now give IGL employees a discount? Why not? Sukhdev Dhaba showed great humanity when during the recent Jat agitation it sheltered and fed hundreds of stranded motorists till normalcy was restored.