An eventful year for Tamil Nadu

Chennai: Tamil Nadu was in the thick of action in 2011, be it the AIADMK`s landslide victory in assembly polls, DMK leaders like A Raja and Kanimozhi landing in jail, strain in Congress-DMK ties or the Mullaperiyar Dam and the Koodankulam nuclear plant issues.

In the April 13 elections, DMK was not only trounced by arch rival AIADMK but also relegated to the third spot as the AIADMK`s ally actor Vijaykant-led DMDK took the second place. However, the AIADMK-DMDK honeymoon came to end within five months as ties were snapped for the civic polls, in which also the AIADMK put up a spectacular show.

The DMK saw one of its leaders and chief M Karunanidhi`s daughter Kanimozhi arrested in the 2G scam and spending over six months in Tihar Jail. The party`s Dalit face and former Telecom Minister A Raja is imprisoned in this case.

The CBI, probing the multi-crore rupees scam, came knocking at the doors of DMK leaders Kanimozhi and former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, albeit at different junctures. Kanimozhi and Karunanidhi`s wife Dayalu faced the CBI officials at the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivalayam.

DMK faced legal heat with scores of party seniors and former ministers like Veerpandi S Arumugam, K N Nehru and K Ponmudy and Lok Sabha MP J K Riteeish walking into jail for alleged land grab charges.

The Mullaperiyar row came to haunt the state with Kerala intensifying its efforts for the construction of a new dam on safety grounds. The sensitive and long-pending issue even resulted in violence on either sides of the border.

The Oommen Chandy government, after assuming office early this year, raised the pitch for a new dam citing safety, which was stiffly opposed by Tamil Nadu, with Jayalalithaa herself vouching for its safety.

A power-cut prone state, Tamil Nadu`s hopes of ensuring power from the Koodankulam Nuclear power plant in Tirunelveli district were affected when locals raised a banner against the Indo-Russian joint venture.

The protest citing safety hazards in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster early this year in Japan soon gained momentum, with support pouring in from various quarters.

Initially, Jayalalithaa vouched for the safety of the plant, but later called for halting of all the work until people`s fears were allayed. The pleas by former President APJ Abdul Kalam and a host of nuclear scientists including those from a Centre-appointed panel failed to break any ice with the protesters who remained adamant on the closure of the plant, after 10 years of work and many million rupees of investment.

Jayalalithaa reversed and scrapped many of the initiatives of the previous government. Notable among them were the announcement to convert the new assembly complex into a multi-super speciality hospital, scrapping the free colour TV scheme and relaunching the free insurance scheme with increased benefits.
The year was disastrous for the Congress and the BJP. For the first time since Independence, Congress was reduced to single digit member in the state assembly, as it won only five of the 63 seats it contested.

The BJP, which was never strong in the state, though it emerged as a ruling party in neighbouring Karnataka, drew a blank. In the civic polls also, where the Congress contested on its own, it was not better. The DMK-Congress combine could not withstand the onslaught of the AIADMK combine-consisting of Left parties, DMDK and other small parties, which had won 200 out of 234 Assembly seats.

The AIADMK also continued the tradition of freebies, giving items like rice and laptops to people. But it increased the VAT on several items, bus fares and milk prices and mooted the revision of power tariff in the state, describing the measures as a bitter pill to save the state`s economy.

The past came to haunt the yesteryear actor as Jayalalithaa was directed by the Supreme Court to appear before a local court in Bangalore in connection with the Rs 66 crore disproportionate assets case. The court had earlier quashed her appeal for exemption from personal appearance.

The move to scrap Uniform System of School Education, another DMK initiative, sacking of 13,000 welfare workers and the proposal to convert the Anna Centenary Library into a child-care hospital were met with stiff opposition from the Opposition as well as the general public.

Either the Supreme Court or the Madras High Court struck down the state government decisions in these matters. Her government also faced criticism over the price hike of milk and increase in bus fares.

The attacks on Indian fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu came to dominate the headlines with Jayalalithaa repeatedly taking up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The state assembly also passed a resolution seeking economic sanctions on Colombo on the Tamils issue, and wanted the UN to declare as "war criminals" those who had allegedly committed war crimes.

Resolution was also passed urging President Pratibha Patil to consider review petitions of three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination — Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. The Madras High Court also stayed their hanging, which was scheduled in September.

Timely action by the state police averted a major tragedy when the sleuths recovered and defused a pipe bomb from the route of BJP senior leader L K Advani in October.

The leader had started his last leg of the Jan Chetna (People`s Awareness) Yatra from Madurai in the last week of October and was scheduled to proceed to Virudhunagar when the police acted on a tip-off from locals and removed the explosive device.
The year also saw actor-politician Vijayakant becoming the Opposition Leader in the state Assembly, only in the second Assembly polls faced by his six year-old DMDK.