Why are these men in power scared of frail ex-convict Sasi­ka­la?

Pokerface, the customary tailpiece of this column, last week quoted this Kamal Haasan dialogue on valour: Veeramna enna theriyuma? Bayam illada madiri nadikkaradu daan. (Do you know what’s valour? It’s acting as if you are not scared). Four senior leaders of the AIADMK — presidium chairman E Madhusudhanan, power minister

P Thangamani, fisheries minister D Jayakumar and law minister C Ve Shanmugam — proved on Saturday they are bad actors, at least when it comes to faking courage.

Approaching an array of media microphones after meeting director general of police J K Tripathi, they prompted each other to speak first, stuttered, stammered and struggled to utter the name Sasikala. It was a comedy show that social media celebrated through the day (on Sunday Jayakumar regained his voice to say any number of Sasikalas can’t harm the AIADMK).

ONCE UPON A TIME: Many AIADMK leaders who now bay for Sasikala’s blood were once beneficiaries of her benevolence

More hilarious was the AIADMK’s complaint to the DGP. It said supporters of Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran were planning to unleash violence across Tamil Nadu through human bombs! This was the second time ministers were calling on the police chief. The previous visit was to complain that Sasikala had used the AIADMK flag on her car in Bengaluru. It reminded me of a four-year-old complaining to his dad about his sister snatching his lollipop. The AIADMK’s paranoia ahead of Sasikala’s expected return to Chennai on Monday is on full display. Police teams have been deployed at the Jayalalithaa memorial on the Marina and Veda Nilayam, where Sasikala lived as a confidante of the former chief minister.

If she decides so, Sasikala can ruin the electoral prospects of the AIADMK, but Dhinakaran’s claim of her taking back the party’s control is, for now, wishful thinking. As per law, she cannot contest an election or hold a constitutional post for another six years. But that doesn’t make her a weakling. With deep pockets and a grip over the thevar community that has been a vote bank of the AIADMK, Sasikala can be more than a pain in the ruling party’s flesh.

But the party’s apparent paranoia has been disproportionate to the damage potential of Sasikala, now a frail woman recuperating from Covid-19 and four years of incarceration. So why are they running around like headless chickens? Well, not too long ago, almost all these men had lined up at Veda Nilayam to plead with Sasikala — who they had reverentially called ‘Chinnamma’ — to take over the reins of the party after Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5, 2016. The digital footprint of the AIADMK leaders’ sycophancy is so indelible that a random search with the name of any top AIADMK leader with that of Sasikala yields photographs and videos of different levels of his/ her bowing to the second lady of Poes Garden. As I had written earlier, a bureaucrat once told me they called it the ‘bending index’: A 45-degree bend is considered mandatory to retain your post, a 90-degree bend would fetch you a better post, and the 180-degree prostration would give you nirvana.

Now we know that those acts of obeisance were not triggered by respect or love; they were expressions of fear, the thirst for favour. Many of these leaders have been beneficiaries of Sasikala’s (mis)calculated benevolence. That’s why they can’t take her name without a stammer. That’s why they can’t look her in the eye. That’s why they see human bombs along the highway that Sasikala would take from Bengaluru to Chennai on Monday. Fear breeds sycophancy and, when your idol of worship turns into an object of hatred, the fear refuses to leave you; it lurks in your loathing, it thrives in your revenge.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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