When the Tamil Nadu government announced the conversion of Anna Centenary Library buildings to a pediatric hospital it wasn’t the first such move rooted in excessive mutual malice that has always characterised the relationship between the Karunanidhi-led DMK and Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK.
Within weeks of Jayalalithaa taking over as the Chief Minister after her astounding electoral victory early this year she declared that the massive new building the previous DMK administration had ordered to be built to serve as the new secretariat complex and to house the state legislative assembly would be converted to a multi-speciality hospital. The rather clever by half idea is to put a hospital in the place of what the DMK administration had built is to take the winds off the criticism that public money is being wasted. The same template has been applied to the Anna Centenary Library – move the library and convert the building into a hospital!
Of-course she had always opposed the DMK administration’s plan to put up the secretariat complex at the site. But that was because five years earlier the DMK had thwarted her own attempt to move the secretariat complex to a site near Anna University campuses.
Either side may cite what appear to be reasonable objections to a site the other had proposed. But one would have to be exceedingly naive to not know that these two personalities were staging the drama out of sheer malice for the other. We know the two ‘leaders’ have had a history of humiliating each other by using the state police and legal machinery to arrest and prosecute on grounds of corruption. To be sure their animosity dates back even before all this when Jayalalithaa was a victim of DMK’s lewd behavior within the sanctity of Tamil Nadu legislative assembly.
But observers feel that this time it is even more personal and that makes the malevolence more off-putting.
Let me explain. In his previous stint Karunanidhi spent hundreds of crores organizing a so called world Tamil conference, he built a new secretariat complex, he piloted a major insurance scheme and so on. He did all that because apart from the demands of political expedience it was a bit personal for this political animal. He so badly carved that legacy as the ‘Leader’ of Tamils.
You see, with his failing health many believe, including himself, he may not return as the next Chief Minister – the man is in his late eighties and naturally desires that he leaves behind a legacy of sorts through major public projects he had piloted as Chief Minister. All his major projects and initiatives as Chief Minister must be viewed through this prism. Jayalalithaa doesn’t like this one bit.
It must break him to see his arch rival dismantle his iconic projects one by one and deny him the chance to be remembered by what he wants to be remembered by. But the masterly politician he has been for decades would surely know that sooner or later political fortunes swing – even for Jayalalithaa!