2011: A big change for Tamil Nadu

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A momentous year for the world that ended on Saturday left a huge footprint in Tamil Nadu too. The year 2011 brought the big change in which one regime gave way to another that could, in many ways, be considered its exact opposite.

As multiple power centers operating around a political strategist gave way to a centralised ruling party owing allegiance to one lady, change was the singular phenomenon.

Thanks to the change that also saw the government come back to its original and historical seat in Fort St. George, the state moved away somewhat from the stigma of having been the engine room of the spectrum scandal.

If 2010 was the year of the 2G – graft and greed – 2011 went one better, or should it be worse? It was the year of the 3G, with guilt joining its alliterative cousins.

The politico thought to be the main perpetrator of India’s biggest scam is still cooling his heels in Tihar without lending a thought to pleading for bail.

With most of the central characters being from Tamil Nadu, the state lent a surfeit of players to the cast of a long running drama of jail and bail and trial with guilt being paraded as investigating agencies and prosecutors operated at full steam.

It was only logical that the scandal boomerang on the party with the perpetrators although seeing the return of Kanimozhi from Tihar, on temporary relief from conspiracy and fraud charges, one would have been led to believe gallant deeds had been achieved in her incarceration.

However, nothing is to be considered unusual in Tamil Nadu’s political soap opera in which rulers in a democracy are thought of as First Family, a first among unequals. The drama continued with the alternative seat of power at Poes Garden, only a stone’s throw from Gopalapuram, being torn asunder by palace intrigues.

The banishment of the chief minister Jayalalithaa’s trusted confidante of a quarter century is being interpreted as a positive development that marks the launching of a charismatic and tough talking politician on to the national political scene.

Jaya is being seen as a potential national king or queen maker of 2014 who has acted in the nick of time to cleanse herself of harmful influences by exorcising an extra constitutional authority. Who knows, the strange compulsions of coalition politics may pitchfork her to the queen’s throne!

The two issues – Koodankulam nuclear power and Mullaiperiyar dam waters - that were proving such a headache for the state had cooled somewhat by the fag end of the year.

While Tamil Nadu’s viewpoint on the dam had impressed the PM, it became apparent, in a sort of quid pro quo, that the state would be the big gainer if Koodankulam empowers the electricity grid. The political give-and-take seen in the PM-CM interaction was a significant late development in the year gone by.

On other fronts, Tamil Nadu moved on a different road from the one charted by the erstwhile regime.
The police force was empowered to be pro-active, although it did lead to the blotting of the copybook in the Paramakudi firing on protesting Dalits.

The land grabbers who had enjoyed a free run were being brought to book and monopolies that had been built up by vested interests in many fields were being broken. In the year of change, the laissez-faire practised by the previous regime had been hit for six.

The year ahead will throw light on whether everything has changed, or some things have changed, or, if, anything has changed.

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