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|June 5, 2001||
Jayalalithaa's latest antics
What can you do with a fool who looks at everybody's face excepting his own?
Arguably, the most eloquent comment on J Jayalalithaa accusing others of misuse of power and money comes from the 13th century Kannada poet Basaveshvara:
'A snake charmer and his noseless wife went searching for omens in connection with their son's wedding.
'In the opposite direction they saw another snake charmer and his noseless wife walk towards them.
'Evil omen! Evil omen!' they shrieked and ran home. The man had a snake in his arms, his own wife had no nose.
O Lord of the Meeting Rivers! What can you say to a fool who looks at everybody's face except his own?'
Credibility has always been a major issue with the likes of Jayalalithaa. The studied nonchalance with which she has misused power diminishes any misuse by other politicians and banishes the latter into the realm of insignificance. What is shocking (even by her dictatorial standards) is her audacity in having Karunanidhi et al arrested and roughed up on the flimsiest of charges.
While arresting elected representatives on criminal charges is a hoary Indian tradition (thanks to Bihar), arresting and roughing up a Cabinet minister (Murasoli Maran and T R Baalu in this case) is a new low "copyrighted" by Amma. Amma's ability to make a nuisance of herself was amusing in the beginning, irritating later and is now converting into an absolute menace.
Amma's conviction about how everybody can be bribed seems to extend even to the almighty. Not that this move is new (she tried a variant at the last Mahamakam festival in Kumbakkonam), though it would be interesting to see if her gifts to Lord Krishna prevent her being sent to the Krishna janmasthana i e, the birthplace of Lord Krishna (According to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna was born in a prison as a result of his parents being incarcerated by his villainous maternal uncle, Kamsa.).
And yet, who says that no good has come of the latest of the disastrous moves in Tamil Nadu politics?
As the saying goes, every cloud has its silver lining, or a couple in this case.
For one, the effete Fathima Beevi have been removed, or has removed herself from the action. A former Supreme Court judge letting somebody become chief minister even when debarred from being a legislator is inconceivable. Even an elementary knowledge of jurisprudence would have made it clear to the learned ex-justice that Jayalalithaa was legally unfit for holding office, the Supreme Court's ruling in the Bommai case notwithstanding.
Then, as all hell broke loose last weekend, Fathima Beevi endorsed a state administration report saying that everything was rosy and fine, never mind if a few thousand souls had been roughed up and put in prison. This is not the first time that she has had problems with acknowledging reality. In February 1998, with dozens of people dead and serious law and order problem in the aftermath of the Coimbatore bomb blasts, she stuck to her "everything is OK" theme.
Secondly, the statesman-like and firm reaction from Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the National Democratic Alliance leadership will go down in history as one of their finest moments. Vajpayee deserves credit for not responding to Jayalalithaa's shrill and immature tactics, a reaction very different than that which could have been elicited from other prime ministers like Indira Gandhi. Unless there is a major breakthrough in the Kashmir issue during Pervez Musharraf's visit, the handling of the Tamil Nadu crisis may be the NDA's achievement for the year 2001.
Does there exist a long term solution to the menace of Amma and her infinite talent for thumbing her nose towards rules and regulations? It is time India devised a permanent, viable solution to deal with a gifted nuisance like Amma.
A practical, if draconian solution would be to explore the possibility of expulsion from the country. While India currently doesn't have a policy of expelling citizens, the Government of India has pressured dissidents into leaving the country (eg: Naga leader Angami Zapu Phizo in the 1960s) or has removed troublesome politicians to a different part of India (eg: Sheikh Abdullah's internment in the Nilgiris in the 1970s).
However, the emergence of Amma, not to mention her alter-ego Sasikala makes it necessary for the bull to be taken by the horns. It would be interesting for the GoI to explore the necessary legislation for expelling politicians with a time-tested record of violating democratic procedure.
The threat of expulsion may itself act as a deterrent. Politicians know and understand very well the adage about their being "out of sight, out of mind". Worse, an expelled politician is always forced to be on the road, irrespective of money and connections. The experiences of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos should leave Jayalalithaa et al with no hopes of what awaits them should they be expelled.
So to answer the question what can you do to a fool that looks at all faces except his own? One effective technique would be to let the fool sail onto the blue seas where they can stare into the waters, enamored of their own reflection amidst perfect solitude.
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