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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 42, October 11, 2014

The Unique State of Tamil Nadu

Saturday 11 October 2014

by T. Sadashivam

The following article was written before the Court’s rejection of Jayalalithaa’s bail plea.

Since last year, a number of important events took place in our society, especially in the field of governance, and one such event was the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India on July 10, 2013 in the case of Lily Thomas versus Union of India where it ruled that any Member of Parliament (MP), Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) or Member of a Legislative Council (MLC), who is convicted of a crime with more than a two-year sentence, would be disqualified as an elected represen-tative on the date of conviction. Furthermore, Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People’s Act, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal their conviction, was declared unconstitutional. Thus, the Supreme Court through its judgment wants to prevent politicians from abusing the appeals process, as politicians know the process could take years and they can enjoy their full term and even in some cases re-election, which was what was happening in reality till the July 10, 2013 judgment.

As we know, there are a number of cases, especially related to corruption, against a number of politicians going on across Indian courts. Some of the cases have been going on for the last more than one decade, because of various reasons, but one reason is the pending of huge cases in the Indian courts. According to one data, in District and Subordinate courts in India, the number of pending cases was 26.83 million and in High Courts 4,46,2705 as of December 31, 2013. Thus, justice delayed in the corruption cases involving the politicians, gives them courage and enhances their morale to indulge in various corrupt practices. Because they know, if they commit a crime today, then the punishment will be given to them after maybe 10 years or 15 years or more, provided the crime is proven in the court. As in the judicial term, we say ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied’, here justice delayed is good for the politicians who are involved in corruption, but justice denied is for the people of India. That is because the politicians are looting the taxpayers’ money or, in simple terms, people’s money.

In this context, the judgment of the Special Court in Bangalore on September 27, 2014, after almost 18 years of trial, convicted Jayalalithaa Jyaram, commonly known as Jayalalithaa or Amma among the people of Tamil Nadu, for misusing her office during her first tenure as the Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996 under the Prevention of Corruption Act. She amassed wealth worth Rupees 66.65 crores, which was dispro-portionate to her declared sources of income. The court sentenced her to four years in jail and a fine of Rupees 100 crores; this is the first time in India the such a huge amount of fine was imposed on a politician. The verdict of the Special Court leads to immediate disqualification of Miss Jayalalithaa as an MLA while she also ceases to be the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. This is not the first time she was convicted; earlier in the year 2000 she was convicted in the Tansi land deal case and the Supreme Court ordered her to step down from the Chief Minister’s post. However, later she was acquitted by the High Court and Supreme Court in this case.

The huge wealth she accumulated during her first tenure as the Chief Minister raises an important question: she declared that during her first 27 months as the Chief Minister, she was taking Rupee one as salary; then, within a short period of time how could she accumulate so much wealth?

Unique Tamil Nadu

Protests against Jayalalithaa’s conviction in the Tamil Nadu State has shocked many people totally. The AIADMK party cadres doing protest across the State is natural. But the way the common people have taken their life by committing suicides or through heart strokes, testify to the extent to which they are upset over the conviction of Miss Jayalalithaa in the corruption case. Even last year, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and former Chief Minister of Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav, was convicted in the fodder scam after a long trial of 17 years. The court sentenced him to five years imprisonment and fined him Rupees 25 lakhs. He also lost his membership of the Lok Sabha. The other good example is that of the former Chief Minister of Haryana, Om Prakash Chautala, who is the leader of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD); he was convicted for his involvement in an alleged illegal recruitment of over 3000 teachers and he was given a 10-year jail term. However, in the case of both Laloo Prasad Yadav and Om Prakash Chautala, we didn’t witness any such emotional outburst from the people in their States, leading to citizens taking their life for their leader or self-immolation.

Why don’t the common people understand that the money she has amassed is basically people’s money, which was looted through illegal routes? The judgment was delivered by the court after looking at all the facts. Even if she is not satisfied with the verdict of the Special Court, she can approach the High Court or the Supreme Court (which she will do) and the law will take its own course. The emotional outburst which we see from the people in Tamil Nadu, I don’t think we can see in any other part of India, people taking their life for their leader or self-immolation. The important question which we need to ask from ourselves is this: for what cause is this sacrifice of precious lives? During the independence struggle, we saw a number of people sacrificing their life for a genuine cause. Even in independent India, a number of examples exist which shows people sacrificing their life for a good cause. But, in the present case, what is the good cause? This shows the charisma of Miss Jayalalithaa. The people in Tamil Nadu treat their leaders in the form of god or they are considered divine. The people have a fanatical devotion to some of their leaders. This is true even for N.T. Rama Rao, who founded the Telugu Desam Party and served as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh for three terms.

The main reason why people are looking at their leaders with divinity or more fanaticism is because before entering politics, many of them were involved in the Tamil film industry. For example, M.G. Ramachandran and M. Karunanidhi (two of them are former Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu); Vijyakanth; R. Sarath Kumar etc. including Miss Jayalalithaa. Through their movies, they played a character which sent a strong social message, especially the acting of M.G. Ramachandran, and helped people relate to their common problems. This created a close bonding between politicians and the people. Also two major political parties in the State, the AIADMK and DMK, control both the communication and entertainment industry—including TV channels and movie production houses. Thus, politics in Tamil Nadu is as much a part of the popular culture as theatre or movies.

This is the reason why the film fraternity in Tamil Nadu has protested and gone on fast against the judgment of the Bangalore Special Court. It is very interesting to read the banners put up by the film industry. One banner has written: “Injustice to the goddess of justice”, another one, referring to the Special Court, said: “Can mere mortals mete out such injustice to the goddess of justice?” After a daylong protest by the film industry, a statement was issued by the film fraternity saying that “the protest was organised to raise a collective voice against a ‘fabricated case’ and an ‘unfair’ verdict”.

It is very sad to see the Tamil film industry people are supporting such a cause. The reason being, as already stated, politics and Kollywood (Tamil film industry) are having a close relationship. We hardly see such close relations existing in any other film industry in India, either Bollywood, Tollywood (Telugu film industry), Mollywood (Malayalam film industry) etc. Also the close relations between politics and Kollywood make the people think that whatever their heroes and heroines are doing and propagating in public life is correct. Because the way they act in the silver screen captures the mindset of the people who try to follow their heroes or heroines as real idols in their life and they can do anything for them. That’s why we are seeing such instances as pouring milk to the Tamil industry superstar Rajinikanth’s poster during his movie release, or standing outside the movie theatre for so many hours, even in some cases the whole night to buy movie tickets, just to see movies of their heroes or heroines in Kollywood. Not only this, the film industry is closely participating in the politics of the State, not directly, for instance, supporting the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils, which of course a majority of Tamilians do. But the point here is to see that they want to associate with the people directly. This we rarely see in other parts of the country, and this makes the people more fanatical towards their real life heroes.

Thus, it is the responsibility of the real life heroes of the silver screen not to support such a cause, because if they do, then it also influences the mindset of their fans. The film industry should set the example of supporting a genuine cause. Please remember films are not just two or three hours entertainment, they are more than that. They spread social messages in the society among various sections of the people irrespective of age, religion, status, sex etc. These are also one form of moulding public opinion.

However, in a developed State like Tamil Nadu with a high literacy rate, good ratings in the social and economic sectors, it is very difficult to understand why people are so emotional and fanatical towards their leaders for the wrong cause and are demanding justice for what? (And not just the common people, the film industry as well.) The question remains unanswered.


1. Saptarshi Bhattacharya, ‘The Conviction of a Chief Minister’, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, September 27, 2014. Source: http://www.the-hinducentre.com/the-arena/article6452901.ece, accessed on October 1, 2014.

2. Julie Mccarthy, ‘Popular Indian politicians’ corruption conviction spurs nervousness”. Source: http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/npr/352242464/popular-indian-politician-s-corruption-conviction-spurs-nervousness, accessed on October 1, 2014.

3. Arun Janardhanan, ”Jaya gets Tamil film industry support: ‘Injustice to goddess of justice?’”, Indian Express, October 1, 2014. Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/jaya-gets-tamil-film-industry-support-injustice-to-goddess-of justice/99/#sthash.iHtDjFS2.dpuf, accessed on October 1, 2104.

4. Udhav Naig, “Film fraternity shows solidarity with jailed leader”,The Hindu, October 1, 2014. Source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/film-fraternity-shows-solidarity-with-jailed jayalalithaa/article 6462704. ece? homepage=true, accessed on October 1, 2014.

T. Sadashivan is an Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Pachhunga University College (the only constituent college of the Central University, Mizoram). He can be contacted by e-mail at: sadajmi@gmail.com.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62