Ms J. Jayalalithaa is never short of causes when she needs them. Veerappan gave her one on a platter, and the tussle with Karnataka over the Cauvery waters could be given quite a dramatic twist. There is no doubt that the chief minister of Tamil Nadu is suddenly in focus once again, and the flurry of activity on her part suggests she has something in mind. Her latest exploit is the shrill tirade against the idea of a “foreigner” as prime minister. When Ms Jayalalithaa decides to flog a dead horse, chances are that she needs the cause. History will show that she is at her distracting best when one or two of the cases against her are due for hearing. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s appeal against her acquittal in the Tansi land case is coming up in the Supreme Court in September. But the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader would not be content with one goal. Her tirade against Ms Sonia Gandhi’s “foreignness” is bound to endear her to the Bharatiya Janata Party, besieged by scandal and embarrassment of various kinds. Ms Jayalalithaa’s full-throated attack on the Congress president just might make the BJP forget the recent past, when she destabilized its government in 1999. It will also drive a further wedge between the DMK and the BJP, put paid to any hopes the Congress might have about a coalition of anti-BJP parties, and be a satisfying revenge for the reunion of the Tamil Maanila Congress and the Congress. With the BJP on her side, she can ignore the strengthened Congress in her state.
By appearing passionately involved in the “foreigner” issue, Ms Jayalalithaa has revived a cause that the Constitution review committee had passed by. The situation is absurd. The issue is irrelevant, not just dead. The fact that all parties are responding seriously to the AIADMK leader’s outburst shows up the bankruptcy of the entire political class. In the politics of addition and subtraction, Ms Jayalalithaa has to be taken seriously, even if she changes her tune from one day to the next. Besides, it has become amply clear over the years that she does not make a distinction between the political and the personal and has an incurable love of disrupting anything that looks like a going concern. Her support would be a danger to both the BJP and the Congress, but neither can let go of the numbers.