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Ruling AIADMK faction in Tamil Nadu wins back ‘Two Leaves’ symbol

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The combined E Palaniswamy-O Panneerselvam faction of the AIADMK that now rules Tamil Nadu has won on November 23 the two-leaf symbol after months of infighting.

The Election Commission of India (ECI), after studying the issue vey deeply for months, ruled the flag symbol in favour of the Palaniswamy-Panneerselvam camp, saying that the unified AIADMK is the real AIADMK.

 What might come as a setback for V Sasikala, who is currently lodged in a Bengaluru prison, the ECI declared that the ‘two-leaves’ party symbol belonged to the E Palaniswamy and O Panneerselvam faction and not the VK Sasikala-TTV Dinakaran camp that had claimed they would get the symbol.

 The verdict was happily welcomed by the EPS-OPS faction.

 On November 8, the EC had concluded hearing the AIADMK symbol case. The EC had frozen the party symbol after OPS walked out of the AIADMK. The merged factions of the party had moved the Election Commission in September.

 The poll panel also said that VK. Sasikala, now jailed in Bangaluru jail for disproportionate assets, and her nephew Dinakaran who runs the show on her behalf, did not have party support.

 In fact, initially two factions led by Panneerselvam and Sasikala had staked claim to the ‘two leaves’ symbol. The poll panel had frozen it, pending a decision on their pleas. Sasikala has chosen Palanisamy for CM post as she was denied that privilege due to the disproportionate assets case for which s he was sent to jail.

Later, a large group of legislators led by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami revolted against Sasikala, who is in jail in a graft case, and announced a merger with Panneerselvam faction for a stable government.

 Resolutions ousting Sasikala as interim general secretary and her nephew Dhinakaran as her deputy were also adopted at the party’s general council meeting held on September 12. On September 14, representatives of Dhinakaran had approached the EC urging it to declare as invalid the general council meeting, citing a high court order that said any decision taken at the impugned meeting will be subject to the final outcome in the appeal.

Verdict reminiscent of 1988 tussle between Jayalalithaa-Janaki

 With the EC restoring the “two leaves” symbol for the ruling faction of the AIADMK, the Palaniswamy-Panneerselvam faction is now the officially recognised AIADMK.

 The entire drama, as it unfolded since the death of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in December last year in a mysterious circumstances (now the reports suggest that she had died long before but Sasikala and co deliberately concealed that for some conspiratorial reasons-) is reminiscent of how MG Ramachandran’s widow Janaki Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa sparred to control AIADMK after MGR’s death in 1988. They too, like EPS-OPS and Sasikala, fought over who should use the AIADMK symbol.

 The power tussle between Janaki and Jayalalithaa, the party’s propaganda secretary, broke after a little after ten days of MGR’s death. The fight over who should head the party protracted into a months-long struggle before the EC stepped in and froze the symbol, a month before the elections in January 1989. Eventually Jayalalithaa won the symbol and Janaki left politics.

 With the current AIADMK fight, the EC froze the ‘two-leaves’ symbols on 23 March, three months after Jayalalithaa’s death.

 By Mid-March of 1988, Jayalalithaa had staked her claim to the party’s symbol claiming support of the majority. Similarly, EPS-OPS, who merged recently, reached EC on 6 October, 2017, and staked their claim to the ‘two leaves’ symbol claiming support of a majority of lawmakers and party cadre.

EPS-OPS duo claimed that both Sasikala and Dinakaran had been removed from the party and hence cannot claim the symbol. Similarly, Janaki said she had the support of the majority in the party and Tamil Nadu Assembly and thus, Jayalalithaa had no right to use the official symbol.

 In Jayalalithaa’s case, ten days after Janaki lost the elections to her, MGR’s wife decided to “quit politics and not hinder anyone”, thus leaving AIADMK for Jayalalithaa to control.

 With EPS-OPS and Sasikala, it remains to be seen who finally gets the last word on the matter. As per CNN-News18, the Sasikala faction might move the Madras High Court to challenge the EC verdict.

 Three months after the merger of the rival AIADMK factions led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy and his now deputy O Panneerselvam, all is not well within the unified AIADMK. A hint has been dropped by senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP, V Maithreyan, in a social media post. “It has been three months since the EPS-OPS faction merged. Months have gone, but have the hearts synced,” Maithreyan wrote in a Facebook post. Maithreyan was the first AIADMK leader to join Panneerselvam’s rebellion against then party general secretary VK Sasikala on February 7, days after she tried to replace him as chief minister.

Tamil Nadu MP V Maithreyan pointed out that AIADMK is perhaps the only party to have its symbol frozen and de-frozen twice in the country’s political history.

 When asked what prompted him to write such a post, Maithreyan declined to comment, saying he has nothing more to say about it. His  post was his second hint at the discontent in the ruling AIADMK in this month. On November 6, he complained that he has been ignored in the relief works in the rain-hit areas.

When asked about Maithreyan remark, senior AIADMK leader and minister, D Jayakumar, said he was against discussing the party’s internal issues in public. He also denied any issues within the party.

Maithreyan, whose political roots can be traced to the RSS and BJP before joining the AIADMK, was supposed to have played a major role in the merger in which PM Narendra Modi had also reportedly shown keen interest.

 The E Palaniswamy-O Panneerselvam faction has won the ongoing fight with the VK Sasikala camp over  the united AIADMK’s “two leaves” symbol the Election Commission of India has ruled in favour of the Palaniswamy-Panneerselvam camp.

 With the Election Commission restoring the “two leaves” symbol for the ruling faction of the AIADMK, the Palaniswamy-Panneerselvam faction is now the officially recognised AIADMK

 The Tamil Nadu chief minister expressed happiness over the verdict and thanked the party cadres for their constant support. Palaniswamy also denied reports that his faction won the symbol due to its proximity to the BJP. Eventually Jayalalithaa won the symbol and Janaki left politics. It is wrong. We had facts on our side and majority of MLAs, MPs and party workers were with us. All this was taken into consideration: TN CM Edappadi K. Palaniswami on allegations that judgment was awarded in their favour due to proximity with BJP

 Reports say that the defeated Sasikala will move the Madras High Court against the verdict. She ha s a lot of money to do anything

 On 8 November, the poll panel had concluded hearing the symbol case and reserved the order. At the seventh hearing, the rival Palaniswamy-Panneerselvam and the Sasikala Natarajan factions concluded their arguments.

 Initially two factions led by Panneerselvam and Sasikala had staked claim to the ‘two leaves’ symbol. The poll panel had originally frozen the symbol on 23 March.

Later, a large group of legislators led by Palaniswamy revolted against Sasikala, who is lodged in a Bengaluru jail in connection with a corruption case, and announced merger with Panneerselvam faction.

 Resolutions ousting Sasikala as interim general secretary and her nephew Dinakaran as her deputy were also adopted at the party’s general council meeting held on 12 September.

On 14 September, representatives of Dinakaran had approached the EC urging it to declare as invalid the general council meeting, citing a high court order that said any decision taken at the impugned meeting will be subject to the final outcome in the appeal.

 EC has given judgment in favour of EPS and OPS and with this judgment now there is only one AIADMK without any factions. Majority of party workers supported us: Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K. Palaniswami on two leaves symbol

 Indian Election Commission has cleared the deck for the ruling AIADMK now to focus on governance of the state aiming at rooting out corruption invented by the DMK misrule and then followed up by the AIADMK governments of both MGR and Jayalalithaa that let notorious people like Sasikala et al to loot the resources of the state by missing power of the CM.  

 As the factions are busy targeting each other, the ruling faction is trying to stay in power somehow, while administration was out of gear in the state. Corruption has reached the worst possible level as for everything people must bribe the officals and police and without bring or showing money to them, nothing gets done in Tamil Nadu. .

 Unfortunately, Tamil Nadu after the K, Kamaraj has become one of most corrupt states and thee seems to no chance tom see the state behave properly and morally sound.  The Tamil state and government are insensitive to people’s requirements and concerns. Even MGR could not do anything to make the state corruption free. Obviously, Jayalalithaa, controlled by Sasikala and co with their own hidden agendas could not do anything that would make the state honest.

 One is not sure if the new governor is indeed serous or he  is just doing some gimmicks for news by talking to district officals, would try to make the state corruption free and make the officals and police work honestly for the sake of a shining Tamil Nadu.

 As it stands, the officals and police, others who get paid for service to people by the state operate like parts of a very big network of mafias

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South Asia

The sizzling “Political Matrix”; What will happen now?

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Politics in Pakistan is unfortunately leaving scars that will fade away not that easily. Islamabad today is wrapped in thick political clouds since past few weeks. These last few weeks have altered all assumptions and calculations in the national political matrix.  While the political landscape today is sizzling with intensity, aggression and strain the economy is shattering every day.  Who is to blame for? What will happen now? And will sanity prevail?

The entire edifice of the “conspiracy mantra” which even made PTI commit violation of the constitution stands demolished today. It was one of the worst advices Imran khan could ever get from his party among the list of many others. Sadly he made his entire politics captive to this conspiracy myth.  But today no one questions them on the impact it had on our foreign policy. US today feels betrayed, Saudis not ready to give aid, Chinese worried about their stakes and it continues.  So diplomatically this conspiracy mantra has damaged Pakistan like anything.

Imran Khan’s followers see nothing wrong in what he says and what he does. They absolutely reject all the facts, all the logics and embrace the rhetoric which is fuelling more today with a greater intensity. Imran khan is leading this campaign more aggressively. Khan very well knows that bringing large crowds to Islamabad will have an impact only if there is some kind of aggression.  The leaders on different occasions already hinted towards an aggressive March. He very well realizes that the figure of 2.5 Million is unrealistic but keeping in view the size of Islamabad, 0.1 Million crowd will even be perceived as a bigger crowd. So can he force the early elections at this stage? How will the government react to it? For instance let’s accept this narrative that the pressure of crowd aids PTI in getting an early election call and PTI wins it. So now what next? How will you deal with the mighty US? The economy is already sinking. You need aid to feed it but no one is providing you that. Then how will you stop dollar from going above 200? How will you provide relief from the soaring fuel prices when you won’t have money for a subsidy even? Forget about one lakh jobs and 50 lakh houses.

From the past few weeks we haven’t heard any PTI leader telling any economic plan or any diplomatic plan to revive relations. How will you deal with the IFI’s, World Bank & IMF when they’re all US controlled and as per your narrative you won’t accept “Amreeka ki Ghulami” or USA’s dictatorship.

So now what options the present regime has? The government would of course like to stop this building dangerous momentum of “Azadi March”. They would not like any big clash in Islamabad which results in bigger mess and chaos. The PDM government also has a much bigger fish to deal with, the same sinking economy. They came into power with this narrative to fix economy as former Premiere was unable to do it.  The key cabinet members made more than two different official visits.  The instructions are coming from London today as a decisive power so who will run the government? Who will run the system? Will the IMF aid? What will be the upcoming budget about? This upcoming budget is a bigger risk for this government along with an already announced to Long march call. Khan has already played a dangerous narrative especially with the blame of another conspiracy being made about his Life.   

The stakes, the narrative and the politics of every party is at risk today.  But above that, Pakistan is at risk. The dread is in the air. The end of May will be heated ferociously in Islamabad, whether politically or meteorologically.

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Sri Lankan economic crisis and the China factor

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After the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is the sole member of the United National Party (UNP), was sworn in as Sri Lankan Prime Minister on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Wickremesinghe will be holding the position of Sri Lankan PM for the sixth time. While the new Sri Lankan PM is a seasoned administrator, the task of restoring even a modicum of normalcy to the island nation’s economy, which is currently facing its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 seems to be a Herculean task (Wickremesinghe has clearly indicated, that his first task will be ensuring the supply of electricity, diesel and petrol to the people).

 The grave economic crisis, which has resulted in acute shortage of food and essential commodities have brought ordinary people on the roads and demonstrations have resulted in violence and loss of lives (the Sri Lankan President had to declare a state of emergency twice first last month and then earlier this month). There had been a growing clamor for the resignation by President Gottabaya Rajapaksa but Wickremesinghe was sworn in after the exit of Mahinda Rajapaksa (protests have been carrying on even after the swearing in of Wickremesinghe)

During his previous tenure, Wickremesinghe had tried to reduce Sri Lanka’s dependence upon China, and in his current tenure he will be compelled to do the same. He had also been critical of the previous government for not approaching the IMF for assistance (Wickremesinghe has been repeatedly accused of being pro-west and having neoliberal leanings by many of his political opponents).

It would be pertinent to point out, that the PM had also batted for a coordinated regional response, by SAARC vis-à-vis the covid19 pandemic. The new Sri Lankan PM has also been an ardent advocate of improving ties with India.

While it is true, that Sri Lanka finds itself in the current situation due to economic mismanagement and excessive dependence upon the tourism sector (which faced a severe setback as a result of covid 19), it is tough to overlook the level of debts piled vis-à-vis China, and the fact that the Island nation was following China’s model of economic growth with a focus on big ticket infrastructure projects.

Another South Asian nation — Pakistan which witnessed a change last month where Shehbaz Sharif took over as Prime Minister, replacing Imran Khan, also faces daunting economic challenges.  Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves were estimated to be a little over $ 10 billion on May 6, 2022 and the Pakistani Rupee fell to its all time low versus the US Dollar on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Shehbaz Sharif ever since taking over as PM has repeatedly reiterated the importance of Pakistan’s ties with China and the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto in a conversation with his Chinese counterpart alluded to the same, with Pakistan’s Foreign office in a statement released after the conversation between Bhutto and Wang Yi said:

 “underscored his determination to inject fresh momentum in the bilateral strategic cooperative partnership and add new avenues to practical cooperation”.

 Yet, China has categorically said that it will not provide any financial assistance until Pakistan resumes the IMF aid program. Pakistan has been compelled to look at other alternatives such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, which have also said that without the revival of the IMF program aid will not be possible. Only recently, Chinese power companies functioning under the umbrella of the China Pakistan Economic corridor (CPEC) have threatened to shut down their operations if their dues (to the tune of 1.59 billion USD) are not cleared. China had also reacted very strongly to the terror attack on Karachi University in which three Chinese teachers lost their lives, this is the second such attack after 2021. China in recent years had also indicated to Pakistan, that it was not happy with the progress of the China Pakistan Economic (CPEC) project. The current government in Pakistan has repeatedly pointed to this fact.

One point which is abundantly clear from the economic crisis in Sri Lanka as well as the challenges which Pakistan is facing is that excessive dependence upon China has disastrous consequences in the long run. If one were to look at the case of South Asia, Bangladesh has been astute by not being excessively dependent upon China – it has maintained robust economic relations with India and Japan. Given the changing economic situation it is becoming increasingly important for developing countries, especially in South Asia, to join hands to confront the mounting challenges posed by excessive dependency upon China. US, Japan and western multilateral bodies and financial institutions need to find common ground and provide developing countries with an alternative economic narrative. It is also time for India along with other countries in the South Asian region to find common ground and focus on robust economic cooperation.

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Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and Taliban’s obsession with women’s rights

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A mother and her child in the Haji camp for internally displaced people in Kandahar, Afghanistan. © UNICEF Afghanistan

The Taliban’s latest move to restrict the rights of women points to an obsession with women’s rights. This is in stark contrast to the neglect the regime is showing in addressing an ever worsening economic and humanitarian crisis. With Afghan’s facing poverty and starvation, the Taliban needs to focus on rebuilding the country, and this can only be achieved by respecting the rights of women.

This comes after the Taliban ordered all women to cover their faces in public, making it the latest restriction on the rights of women by the oppressive regime. The Taliban has previously forbidden women from travelling long distances unsupervised or working outside of the healthcare sector. The Taliban also faced international outcry earlier this year when they backflipped on a decision to allow women and girls to attend secondary school and university, making it impossible for women to receive an education.

The Taliban’s treatment of women is not a new development. During the regimes previous reign, between 1996 and 2001, it was described as the least feminist movement in the world. The Taliban forbade education, employment and access to healthcare delivered by men, while also making the veil mandatory and forbidding women to leave the home unless accompanied by a male family member. This was seen as the strictest interpretation of Sharia Law.

Contrary to claims made by the Taliban, the latest iteration of the movement is now attempting to do the same by systematically removing women from public life.

The difference this time is that, since the US withdrawal, the country has experienced an economic and humanitarian crisis. This is largely due to poor governance, the freezing of central bank assets by the US and the withdrawal of foreign aid in response to the Taliban takeover.

The situation is dire. Half the population, approximately 20 million people, are facing acute food insecurity, malnutrition, and hunger. Healthcare is notoriously difficult to access, and poverty is widespread, with women, persecuted minority groups and former government employees refused work and unable to provide for their families. The crisis is so critical that families are resorting to selling their children to delay starvation.

This raises the question of why the Taliban is so obsessed with restricting the rights of women when Afghanistan is falling apart around them. Strict adherence to Sharia Law aside, this attack of women’s rights is clearly to the Taliban’s detriment and the detriment of the people of Afghanistan. This position must change for the country to rebuild.

First and foremost, the actions of the Taliban and the humanitarian crisis is making the situation of women much worse, as women are one of Afghanistan’s the most vulnerable groups. The restriction of their rights has resulted in a lack of income and education, making women reliant on their families for food, water and sanitation products. This is meant that women are not only facing poverty and starvation, but they are also increasingly at risk of exploitation by family members and their communities.

Second, the removal of women from the workplace also affects Afghanistan as a whole. While the Taliban has allowed women to work in the health sector, many have not returned to work, dramatically reducing the number of doctors and nurses able to treat other women, particularly in rural areas. On top of this, women that have returned have not been paid, and are reliant on aid agencies to feed their families.

Outside of healthcare, women have been completely removed from the workplace, including in government, the judicial system, charities and aid agencies. Under the Karzai and Ghani governments the wages of women played an important role in providing for families through their increased workplace representation. With their right to employment suddenly removed, this has played a fundamental role in the causing poverty levels to rise throughout the country.

Third, the Taliban is desperate for international recognition, and that recognition and the aid that comes with it is tied to respecting human rights. The Taliban’s abhorrent treatment of women means that the frozen assets held by the US, and aid from the international community, will continue to be out of arms reach. This will leave the country short of much needed funds to avert the current crisis, leaving those most vulnerable, particularly women, at risk of starvation.

While the international community shares some blame for the humanitarian crisis by withholding assets and restricting the flow of aid, it is also the Taliban’s responsibility, under international law, to treat its citizens as per their human rights.

For this reason, if the Taliban is interested in allowing Afghanistan to rebuild, then it must realise that economic relief is directly tied to the human rights of women.

Allowing women to participate in society, through attending school and participating in the workforce, will have a net benefit for Afghan society by increasing education levels, workforce participation and, in the short term, reduce poverty levels.

Respecting the rights of women will also allow aid to flow into the country, helping alleviate the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis that has engulfed the country and will allow aid agencies to monitor human rights throughout Afghanistan.

This creates an opportunity for the international community to pressure the regime into respecting the rights of women. This will help to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and will go a long way to improving the lives of women and girls by giving them an opportunity to get an education, enter the workforce and participate in society.

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