The battle of succession appears to be heating up in Tamil Nadu as sons MK Stalin and MK Alagiri prepare the ground to succeed father 86-year-old veteran Tamil Nadu politician and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who has announced that he would step down after the four-day World Classical Tamil Conference (WCTC) slated to be held in Coimbatore from June 23.
What appears to be angering Alagiri, who is presently a central minister in the UPA government, is that 57-year-old Stalin is being groomed for the post with Karunanidhi elevating him to the post of Deputy Chief Minister. This provoked Alagiri to state in an interview that he would not accept anyone else expect Karunanidhi as his leader even though his father decides to call it a day.
Clearly these are indications that the two brothers’ battle for the chair in Chennai is going to be a hard-fought one with no compromises and this could well benefit the arch-rival AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, who is clearly marking time for Karunanidhi to step down.
When the DMK became a partner in the UPA government, Karunanidhi nominated 59-year-old Alagiri as its representative in the union cabinet, which was seen as a clear signal that he was set on grooming Stalin as his successor.
Is Article 370 Anti-Development?
Two major developments have taken place in India during the last few days. First, the Women’s Reservation Bill, allowing for reservation of one-third seats of Lok Sabha for women has been introduced in the Parliament’s Upper House. Second, the 86th Constitutional Amendment has come into force which makes the Right to Education a Fundamental Right. Both the legislations have been termed as historic having far reaching implications for the people of India. However, since these legislations do not cover the state of J&K, Bills of similar nature will have to be introduced in the State Legislature. The Government of the state has showed its willingness to introduce both the Bills, so one can hope that the citizens of this state would not be deprived of the benefits accruing from these legislations.
However, the record of the state shows that it generally lags behind other states of India in adopting the pro-people legislations. We are much behind other states in adopting the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in the spirit in which these have been adopted in other states. These PRIs have been hailed as the basis of a silent revolution elsewhere as these have brought millions of women to the centre of the political space. With one-third of the panchs and sarpanchs being women, the political discourse of many places has been changed with decisions and policies at the local level becoming more people and gender-sensitive. While women elsewhere have the experience of being elected to the panchayat for more than ten years now, the women of this state are still awaiting their first opportunity to be elected to the panchayats, since the principle of one-third reservation is still to be applied to this state.
The PRIs in the state suffer from many other structural flaws including the proper decentralised democratic governance at the three levels of village, blocks and district levels and the real empowerment of these institutions with effective powers and financial resources. Not only in terms of the Panchayati Raj institutions, we are also lagging behind other states in Right to Information movement and Institutions. It took us a long time to bring our Right to Information Act at par with the Central legislation. Enacted in the original form, it was quite ineffective and had to be amended later. Though it has now been put in proper form, yet it still has to make an impact. The empowering potential of the RTI that we see elsewhere, has still to be found in this state.
If we place issue of pro-people institutions and legislations in the state in a proper perspective, we will find that initially there existed a very strong linkage between the politics of the state and people-oriented demands. Right since 1930s and 1940s, the politics reflected the demands of the peasantry, artisans and the working class. The New Kashmir Manifesto, which became the blueprint of the movement led by the National Conference under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah, had a forward looking agenda not only for peasants and artisans but also for women. It contained three charters the Peasants’ Charter, the Workers’ Charter and the Women’s Charter.
It was in the spirit of the strong pro-people politics and a concrete socio-economic agenda that the objective of Article 370 was defined. In addition to maintaining the political identity of the state, it was also to protect the pro-people legislations from encroachment of the vested interests. This was specifically in the case of land reform legislations which in the state of J&K were quite radical and progressive in nature. Unlike in rest of Indian states where the landed nobility was given compensation for the land expropriated from them and distributed among the landless masses, in case of this state, no provision of compensation was provided.
It was mainly because of Article 370 that state could pass the land reform legislations in the way it suited the best interests of the peasantry. The compensation clause as given in the Constitution of India was not applied to the state at that time. There was therefore a linkage between the Article 370 and people oriented policies and politics. The state had a forward looking ideology and hence its leadership wanted to use this Article for enacting pro-people policies. The constitution of the state that was drafted in pursuance of Article 370, was also having a pro-people orientation. So progressive was the approach of the political class at that time that it did not want the extension of the Part IV of the Indian Constitution containing the Directive Principles mainly on the ground that it found them as very limited (as compared to the vision contained in the New Kashmir Manifesto). It was therefore decided that the state will have its own list of Directive Principles.
The state was also hesitant about the extension of the Fundamental Rights as incorporated in the Indian constitution. The progressive streak of the state, where it placed itself in a superior ideological position was also reflected in its post-1947 laws and policies. Apart from the land reform legislations which empowered the landless peasantry as well as the legislations related to debt-relief, this was one of the exceptional states which provided free education to all till the level of post-graduation.
Somewhere along the line, the linkage of Article 370 with the progressive, pro-people public policies has been changed and it is used to stall the pro-people institutions and policies. There would have be no issue if the state was still having a progressive political base. As we can see, the state has lost the capacity to mould the public policy on the basis of mass-based politics. The imagination and vision that is required to give it a progressive direction is absolutely missing. The lead that this state had in welfare a policy therefore is no more to be seen. Rather it is lagging behind other states when it comes to anything that is people-oriented.
In the absence of the socio-economic orientation of politics, it is the marginal sections of society who are facing the maximum brunt. With the local political discourse becoming almost devoid of the pro-people content and the political class finding it convenient to defer the extension and implementation of some of the most democratic institutions operating in other states, the state is lagging behind other states in many ways. It is ironical that this state which had the vision of politically empowering women as early as 1940s, is still dither towards the reservation for them in panchayats, and the state which had introduced the idea of free education for all, is being counted among the states having lowest literacy levels.
By Rekha Chowdhary
Alagiri’s interview appears to have shaken Karunanidhi who had all along been the dominant force in DMK with his decision on all matters being final. Alagiri’s remarks clearly brought to the forefront the fact that when it comes to the chair, all other matters are relegated to the back burner. And this is where there appears to be a bit of a miscalculation by DMK supremo.
As this battle heats up, Karunanidhi is to meet UPA chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi soon where this issue is likely to come up. Though it would be given the cloak of an invitation to her to attend the WCTC in Coimbatore.
Stalin has been made in-charge of arrangements at Coimbatore for the conference being organised by
the Tamil Nadu government, which has been spending crores of rupees for transforming Coimbatore into a world-class city.
This would indeed be an opportunity for Karunanidhi to formally announce his successor on a stage with international participants as Tamils from Sri Lanka, Malaysia and other countries would be present—what better opportunity to anoint his successor, a year ahead of the assembly elections in the state!
With Karunanidhi sending out the signal that Stalin is going to be his successor, almost the entire DMK team at the Centre too decided to go along with the leader virtually leaving Alagiri alone. Though Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran may have come to the assistance of Alagiri in the Parliament, when it comes to the crunch he and other party colleagues know which side of the bread is buttered.
Stalin and Alagiri are sons of the second wife of Karunanidhi, while sister Kanimozhi, 42, is from the third wife. She has been denied a cabinet berth even after having been heavily favoured. It’s not that Karunanidhi didn’t try to propel his elder sons MK Muthu and Alagiri. While Muthu failed to live up to his father’s expectations, Alagiri was unable to secure his popularity within and outside the party circles.
Whatever may be the charges against Karunanidhi that he is promoting the family, the fact remains that Stalin’s rise was systematic and most believe that the crown in the battle for succession should go to Stalin.
Stalin has been in the forefront since the age of 14 when he campaigned for the party in the 1967 elections through the infamous Emergency and gradually climbing up the political ladder rising from the position of Mayor of the then Madras and a legislator, he worked quietly preferring to be under the shadow of his illustrious father and keeping aloof from the media.
Though he failed in 2001 assembly election, this did not hamper his progress in the party hierarchy. Two years later in 2003, he was made deputy general secretary and on this post he showed his true mettle.
Karunanidhi’s retirement will no doubt be an emotional episode in the Dravidian mega serial, but a dispassionate, clinical analysis shows that Stalin would make a better leader for the party. Here is how: Right now, Karunanidhi is under tremendous pressure from different members of his extended family. While apportioning the power pie between the warring Dayanidhi Maran and Azhagiri, the octogenarian is also answerable to Rajathiammal when she asks how the patriarch could ignore her daughter Kanimozhi.
On another side, Karunanidhi has to keep his daughter Selvi, who is married to Murasoli Maran’s brother, by keeping the interests of the Marans fulfilled. The talk in DMK circles is that Alagiri is keen on a party post, as he wants to campaign in the assembly elections, which clearly indicates the tough stance that he is adopting and if he were to take a party post, such as general secretary, he could pose a serious threat to brother Stalin.
“In the event of his becoming party general secretary, then it would be easy for Stalin to take over the reins of the government from his father. As of now almost the entire party including all MLAs, MPs and ministers are with Stalin. But, in politics nothing can be a cynch,” party sources said. However, one thing does appear clear as of now—as long as Karunanidhi is around even after stepping down, Alagiri may not be able to raise the banner of revolt so easily.
By Sri Krishna