Rasheeda Bhagat

Pepper spray pales against past TN Assembly events

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on November 23, 2017

Iron lady File picture of Jayalalithaa near a statue of her mentor, late MGRamachandran. - PTI

Uprooted mikes, broken chairs…Tamil Nadu Assembly has seen these and more

The pepper spray and knife/mike attacks in the Lok Sabha have horrified the country, but the Tamil Nadu Assembly has seen worse.

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has been the victim of two violent incidents. Never a dull moment with her, as former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee discovered when she brought his government crashing down in 1999 by withdrawing support.

After the death of her mentor — in both films and politics — MG Ramachandran in December 1987, the AIADMK split wide open. Jayalalithaa, then a Rajya Sabha MP, should have rightly inherited MGR’s political legacy.

But she had a plethora of enemies insanely jealous of her meteoric rise in the party. So they propped up MGR’s widow Janaki, a total novice in politics, to split the party. Janaki, with more MLAs on her side, was asked to prove her majority in the House. The Congress, with over 60 MLAs, was in the enviable position of kingmaker. Rajiv Gandhi’s decision to oppose the confidence motion was conveyed to Congress MLAs at the nth hour. Soon after the House convened, five MLAs turned rebels and announced their resignation.

Flying objects

Jayalalithaa’s supporters were outraged at the rebels’ decision and violence broke out, with the two AIADMK faction MLAs attacking one another, after the truant Congress MLAs fled the scene. A former colleague covering the Assembly that day recalls: “Everything that was not attached to anything flew across the hall; for the next one hour it was pure mayhem. Mikes were wrenched and flung as weapons across the hall, chairs were thrown from the gallery by Congress supporters including a Rajya Sabha MP, and several MLAs were injured.”

After the House was adjourned, a Congress MLA occupied the Speaker’s chair and declared the motion defeated. But soon a Janaki faction leader entered the house with a bunch of goons and a pitched battle began. Finally the police, led by its irrepressible Commissioner Walter Dewaram, launched a lathi charge and the House was cleared.

“At least 20 MLAs were injured, several chairs and 100 mikes were broken, some were taken away as souvenirs by some MLAs,” adds the journalist.

Draupadi recalled

In March 1989, when Jayalaithaa, as the Opposition leader, tried to disrupt CM Karunanidh’s Budget speech, she was subjected to a vicious attack, where DMK leaders Durai Murugan and R Thamaraikani played a major role.

One of them climbed on the table, pulled her hair and snatched at her saree pallu.

Later, addressing media persons, a dishevelled Jayalalithaa charged that the DMK leaders had tried to disrobe her. She also alleged that covering the mike, Karunanidhi had heaped vile abuses on her, addressing her in a derogatory manner. Needless to say, none of this went on record.

That day Jaya vowed never to enter the Assembly until she had finished the DMK off and won the elections. This she did, in 1991, in such a dramatic manner that only one DMK MLA — Karunanidhi — managed to win. He resigned, half in disgust and half in fear, as some AIADMK MLAs openly threatened that once the Assembly convened, they would send him home sans a stitch of clothing!

What is a mere pepper spray can or a solitary knife/mike compared to this drama?

Published on February 14, 2014

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