The passing away of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa is a major development for industry operating in Tamil Nadu and those considering new investments into the state. Most in the industry saw in her a towering leader and a crucial decision-maker. In fact, the state has had very power leaders in practically just the three chief ministers in the last 45 years - M.G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi and J. Jayalalithaa.
So, what happens now? For the moment, many point to the smooth departmental functioning that seems to have continued for the past 75 days or so when she was ailing and hospitalised. This is being seen as a sign of bureaucracy being empowered. This, in many ways, seems to be giving industry confidence that administrative disruptions, at least in the medium term, are unlikely. Expecting to see continuity and stability, Venu Srinivasan, Chairman and Managing Director, TVS Motor Company and the former president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), tells Business Today: "Of course, her presence will be missed, but I am sure proper succession will be there and decision-making will continue."
Many tend to agree with him. But then, some do want to wait and watch to see how the power dynamics may work out in Jayalalithaa's absence. Therefore, to some, there could be concerns over the long term and what that could mean politically and in terms of the implications for the administration. But then, it is still too early to comment for many. Most tend to also feel there are lessons to be learnt on centralised leaderships, especially where leaders are seen as embodying the government. Because, anytime there is change, there are concerns on the way the transition could happen with or without power struggle. It is not as if transitions have not happened after a towering leader. There are examples at both Centre and states - Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Annadurai or M.G. Ramachandran.
Most in the industry point to two major pro-industry measures that were taken under the Jayalalithaa regime. One, creation of industrial zones and the other, improvement in power availability for industry. Apart from, of course, reaching out to industry through efforts such as the global investors meeting last year. Chennai is a very important centre for many industries - from IT, where many leading companies have some of their biggest operations to the automobile sector, where Tamil Nadu is home to some of the biggest names in the industry but Indian and global.
But then, there could be dislocations over the next few days. Many expect to see short term disruptions in operations over the next few days as emotional reactions to the development are likely. Industry, some therefore suggest, would do well to be ready for this and devise ways to deal with them.