From the age of 8, Meenakshi had always wanted to be on TV holding a mike, and as she grew, her dream soon became a passion and she chose Journalism as her subject for graduation in MOP Vaishnav College, Chennai. She worked with The New Indian Express before joining CNN-IBN as a correspondent in Chennai in 2008. She tracks issues related to politics, crime, courts among other things but she enjoys covering politics the most. Meenakshi loves talking (which explains why she's a journalist), reading (no specific genres - will read pretty much everything from chick flicks to classics), travelling and eating (not in this order necessarily). She is also a complete sports freak. Loves cricket and tennis. And if she wasn't a journalist she would have probably been a tennis player or a lawyer - the only other profession where she could survive by just talking.
It was Friday the 13th in May last year - the day the whole of Tamil Nadu had been waiting for with hope and expecting a change - the crucial assembly election results. And just as most of the opinion polls had rightly predicted, it turned out to be the day of women power.. While in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee had created history by breaking the red bastion and ousting the 34 year old Communist government, in Tamil Nadu too, it was no less than a historic moment...Jayalalithaa had not just won, but stormed her way into Raj Bhavan to begin her innings as the Chief Minister for the 3rd time...the AIADMK led coalition had won a whopping 200+ seats leaving a petty 30 odd seats for the DMK-Congress combine...It was a huge jolt for the DMK - for the first time in several years the party wasn't even going to be the principal opposition party in the state assembly.
Its exactly a year to that day.. And what a year it has been!!! For someone like me, who's never seen or worked during Jaya's rule, it was an exciting time... I had been told stories of how her previous regimes had been and how very soon I would find myself struggling for stories cos there would be none under her rule.. But as the days progressed, it turned out to be quite different from what had been said over the years...issues after issues, Tamil Nadu was somehow always on the national news radar.
For the DMK though it was a double blow of sorts.. First the unprecedented thrashing in the elections.. And even before the party could recover from that, within just a week after that result, the grand old man of Tamil Nadu politics had to witness his favourite daughter Kanimozhi getting arrested on charges of corruption in the scam that had rocked the entire country - The 2G scam... Its probably even right to say that Jaya had partly been handed the victory by the DMK which was knee-deep in controversy during the elections.. The 2g scam had erupted in full flow and the blue eyed boy of the DMK A Raja had already been arrested.. Public memory being very short - all this adding to the already existing issues like price rise, corruption and power crisis, the voters probably went out to vote having already decided that they wanted to see a change.. So when Jayalalithaa won and took charge as Chief Minister, she had a huge task up ahead. She had to live upto the expectations of the people, especially after making all those freebie promises in her manifesto....
On her first day in office Jayalalithaa had cleared seven files, including a few sanctions for her poll promises.. She met us (the media) and promised that she would meet us every week.. And she even kept her promise for the next couple of weeks.. Several senior journalists who had seen her earlier terms, started feeling that this was a different Jayalalithaa and that she had changed for the better..But soon enough, it seemed like she was back to what she does best.. Being vindictive.. She started cracking down heavily on the DMK...She set up special anti-land grabbing cells and within days several DMK leaders were arrested (some of them are still in prison).. The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption too went on a raiding spree...Every Saturday I would wake up to the news of a raid in some former DMK minister's house or the other.. and soon almost every DMK leader barring Karunanidhi and his sons had been raided..infact the joke doing rounds in the DMK circles was mera number kab aayega?
Closer to Anna's birthday, as is the tradition by most Dravidian parties, Jaya too decided to launch a few schemes she had promised.. So then free cows and goats were given away to the poor, laptops were distributed to students and free mixers and grinders were given away too.. A large section of the public was happy cos amma had kept her promise..
But all this is the sweet side.. There was the other side too.. The side where Jayalalithaa was facing a number of controversies.. The Uniform School syllabus issue had angered quite a few people who felt she was putting their children's education at risk by being stubborn and pushing the case till the Supreme Court even as the academic year had started and the students were left confused waiting for court orders.. And that wasn't her only tryst with the courts.. Her decision to convert the Anna Centenary library into a multi specialty hospital also invited scathing criticism from all quarters.. And this wasn't the only building that she had proposed to change..She had already decided to not enter the new secretariat complex at Omandurar estate for reasons best known to her.. And one of her first announcements as soon as she took over was to convert that new complex into a super specialty hospital.. It was almost like this ritual between the DMK and the AIADMK to undo what the other did during their rule..AIADMK would do a bit more - that was probably the only difference between the two..
But then came the larger issues.. The Koodankulam nuclear power plant that was on the verge of completion was facing massive protests from villages nearby.. And at that stage, in one of her campaign speeches, Jayalalithaa went to the extent of saying that she would be one among them and voice their concerns to the centre. Not just that, she then went on to set up a state level committee of experts to visit the plant and meet the protesters and address their concerns and even passed a resolution in the state assembly stating no work would take place in the plant until a solution was arrived at... But 5 months later soon after the Sankarankovil by-elections, Jaya was no longer the protesters friend.. She made a complete U turn and announced the commissioning of the plant surprising everyone..With the state's power situation in doldrums and the TNEB in neck deep losses, the KNPP seemed to be an answer to a part of the ongoing crisis.. But her sudden change of mind left several people - especially those opposing the plant - confused, angry and helpless..
But even before Jayalalithaa could go ahead and set right other issues, her own past caught up with her.. The infamous disproportionate assets case that has been long running in a Bangalore court was back to haunt her.. She was asked to be personally present in front of the judge to answer questions relating to the case.. This would have been the first time a sitting Chief Minister would appear in Court as an accused in a corruption case.. She was accompanied by her close friend and confidante Sashikala Natarajan on all 4 days that she had to go to finish answering those several hundred questions the judges had for her.. But soon after that, something happened that took everyone by surprise.. One fine day in December 2011, a statement from the AIADMK supremo announced the expulsion of Sashikala Natarajan and all her relatives from the basic membership of the party.. It was the biggest piece of news for almost all sections of people across the state.. The bureaucrats, the police, and the party members - were all rejoicing over what they felt was a sense of freedom.. After years of not knowing who really the power centre of the party was, the news of Sashikala's expulsion was almost celebratory for everyone.. She had been accused of too much interference in administration and high-handed behaviour - which probably explains the HUGE amount of transfers in IAS and IPS every now and then (in some cases officers would have been shunted out in just a week)..
Amidst several questionable decisions that probably angered some, the decision to expel Sashikala was certainly one decision that had delighted one and all.. But it wasn't to last long.. Exactly a 100 days after the great separation, the re-union happened and Sashikala was back in Poes Garden by her sister's side (she had given a statement saying JJ was like her sister and she would never ever try to betray her and even sought her apology).. The re-union sent shock and fear waves across the party and govt.. The dilemma of whom to report to had begun again.. One of the bureaucrats very exasperatedly said, "Sigh.. Some things just don't change"...And to this day, the confusion and fear of when who'd be transferred remains in the minds of everyone.
And now that all was well at home, Jayalalithaa's attention turned towards other issues and there started the saga of letters.. She started writing letters after letters to the Prime Minister asking for or objecting to something or the other.. The biggest and the most important of the lot has to be her strong objection to the NCTC.. She has been strong in her opposition to the proposal by the Home Minister P Chidambaram (whose not-so-good good rapport with Jayalalithaa is well known) from the beginning and made her stand clear even in the NCTC meeting that was called by the Prime Minister in New Delhi recently.. Another important letter she wrote was asking for the entire power generated from the KNPP to be given to Tamil Nadu.. The result of these letters though is something we'll have to wait for and find out..
Phew... Hasn't Jayalalithaa been providing news?? Anyway.. All the troubles and bad news apart, the good news is that Tamil Nadu is gonna have brighter days ahead.. And quite literally so.. The massive power crisis that had resulted in massive load shedding (most places outside Chennai have 8-10 hour long powercuts) and to add to that increase in tariff has all resulted in extreme dissatisfaction and resentment among the people.. But if what the govt and TNEB sources say is true, much of the 4000 MW shortage faced by the state should be met by this year end.. And its in that hope that investments are beginning to come into the state.. MOUs have already been signed with Yamaha, GAIL and IOC etc...and a few more are in the pipeline..
But to see Jayalalithaa battling all these issues now, would be of immense pleasure to the DMK chief.. The party would be hoping that the government remains engulfed in all these issues that could affect its chances in the upcoming general elections.. But its most important for the AIADMK government to settle all issues - especially the power crisis issue before the elections..Political analysts say Jayalalithaa is keen on playing a larger role in national politics and for that she has to win more than 30 seats in the 2014 elections. But whether she'll able to achieve that is anybody's guess..
And on that note, having said enough about the past year in Tamil Nadu.. I rest my case..
Disclaimer: I have covered most of the issues, but I know there are still issues that could have been elaborated on.. But.. there's always a next time...