Tamil Nadu: No End To Dravidian Politics
The Dravidian politics of Tamil Nadu attained a further low a few days back, when Vaiko (V.Gopalsamy) General Secretary of MDMK abused DMK supremo Karunanidhi equating his caste with the “oldest profession”. Though it is not new to see Vaiko speaking such a language, it was indeed shocking to see him speak it in a Press conference. While condemning the DMK’s alleged act of poaching and splitting opposition parties, Vaiko said, “Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) can take to the oldest profession instead of indulging in splitting other parties. There is a continuous attempt to legalise that profession. After all he belongs to the community of Nadaswaram players!”
Playing of Nadaswaram and Thavil is found in resonance with the Bharthanatyam dance performance of Deva Dasis in temples. Such a divine and noble profession was demeaned and pulled down to this low level by none other than these Dravidian racists.
Within hours of making such caustic casteist abuse, Vaiko tendered an unconditional apology through an official press statement saying, “I consider what I had said a mistake of my life time and I seek forgiveness for the same. My reference to the oldest profession and the playing of Nadaswaram has given room for misinterpretation. I request Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) to be generous in accepting my explanation and forgive me with a motherly heart”. However, when Vaiko made those remarks, it was quite obvious that he made them intentionally; as he is the Convener of the ‘People Welfare Alliance’ (PWA) comprising CPI, CPI(M) and VCK. G.Ramakrishnan, State Secretary of CPI(M) and Thirumavalavan, President of VCK were also seated nearby him and they were also looking normal without even an iota of embarrassment. Vaiko was seen emphasising each and every word and hence, it is most unlikely that Karunanidhi would accept his apology, though he had preferred not to make an issue out of Vaiko’s remarks.
Although Vaiko’s outburst crossed the border of decency, his anger is understandable, as he was an earlier victim of DMK’s poaching technique. DMK top brass has poached his party and took away many of his trusted companions in the last five years. Poaching or engineering a split in his opponents’ camps is one of Karunanidhi’s well known political strategies. Moreover, along with Vaiko, leaders of the two Communist parties were also worried about their future, as they have got reduced to the level of non-entities in Tamil Nadu. The same is the case with Thirumavalavan, a self-styled Dalit leader.
Both the DMK and the AIADMK are not giving them the importance, which they have been giving earlier. In fact, they are not giving to them even the importance which they are giving to the minority organisations. As their vote share is declining in every election over a period of time, they have lost their capacity to bargain during alliance talks. They are also badly in need of recognition by the Election Commission of India. Left with no other alternative, they stitched an alliance in the name of “People Welfare Alliance” and Vaiko, being an experienced senior politician, was chosen unanimously as the Convener.
Vaiko was entrusted with the job of bringing Vijayakanth’s DMDK and G.K.Vasan’s TMC (Tamil Manila Congress), which was formed after a split from Indian National Congress, to the alliance. While there was not much clamoring for TMC, Vijayakanth’s DMDK was always in demand. While DMK was seriously trying to forge an alliance with Vijayakanth, Vaiko was also angling to catch him. And to stay in the race, BJP was also trying to retain him in the NDA fold. Vijayakanth kept on delaying his decision while engaging all of them in talks simultaneously.
Unfortunately for the BJP, it has not done well to retain DMDK. While it had MDMK, DMDK and PMK in its fold during the Lok Saba elections in 2014, it failed to keep all of them in its fold. PMK left immediately after the elections when Anbumani was refused a ministerial birth in the union cabinet. Vaiko’s MDMK left the alliance on some flimsy reason in connection with Sri Lankan policy. However, it was the mistake of the central leadership of the party which is responsible for the loss of Vijayakanth. While the union ministers like Arun Jaitley and Venkaiya Naidu came to meet Jayalalitha, they didn’t bother to visit Vijayakanth. Also the BJP’s soft approach towards the AIADMK government, for the sake of its support in Rajya Saba, irked Vijayakanth. The central leadership forced the state leaders to refrain from criticising AIADMK. All this earned the displeasure of Vijayakanth.
Finally, when Karunanidhi and Stalin differed on alliance to Vijayakanth, and, when BJP faltered in its attempt, Vijayakanth announced in the party’s women’s wing conference that he would go it alone in the hustings, While, DMK and BJP withdrew from making any more attempts to rope him in, Vaiko’s PWA kept on the pressure and also yielded to his two important demands that his party would lead the alliance and that he would be the Chief Ministerial candidate.
Vijayakanth, aspiring to be the Chief Minister of the state, gleefully grabbed the offer of Vaiko. Meanwhile, G.K.Vasan, son of former Congress stalwart G.K.Moopanar, who was waiting at the doorsteps of Poes Garden, came to PWA, as Jayalalitha didn’t open her doors for him. Vasan could not agree to the conditions laid down by AIADMK, and consequently came and joined PWA. With the arrival of Vijayakanth and Vasan, PWA looks like a formidable third front next to AIADMK and DMK.
So, the national ruling party BJP, which headed the third front during the run up to the Lok Sabha, lost its major allies now and is remaining almost alone with a few smaller outfits. Even a non-entity like actor Sarathkumar (AISMK – All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi) left the BJP alliance within a day of joining and went back to AIADMK. However, in a way, it is good for the party, for it can know its actual strength in the State and plan for its future based on it.
If at all there was one party in the opposition ranks, which is clear in its thought, word and deed, it is Dr.Ramadoss’s PMK. The party announced in clear terms that it would maintain equi-distance from both DMK and AIADMK and projected Anbumani Ramadoss as its Chief Ministerial candidate. It clearly told other parties that it would form an alliance with only those who are prepared to accept PMK as the leader of the alliance and Anbumani as the CM candidate.
Coming to the ruling party, it may look like sitting pretty now against a lackluster opposition. But, the people of Tamil Nadu cannot be taken for granted, for they have always preferred a change, barring the period of MG Ramachandran, who remained in office successively for three terms. Whether Jayalalitha will do a MGR, will be known only when the results are announced.
PMK was the first to start the campaign in Tamil Nadu. It adopted an American style of campaigning and the first slogan was “Change & Progress with Anbumani”. Although the party has been considered as a party of and for Vanniyar community, it has undertaken a sustained campaign to project itself as a party for all communities including minorities. The party has been conducting a sincere and sustained campaign for total prohibition over the years. This is the only party which presents shadow budget every year. The party also seems to be taking conscious steps to shed its image that it is a party believing in violence. However, it is still not able to shed its image of anti-Dalit. Nevertheless, its Chief Ministerial candidate Anbumani is seen traveling to places in non-Vanniyar districts too. He has undertaken a sustained campaign and his style of campaigning has so far been decent and dignified.
The party, which has always allied alternatively with DMK and AIADMK in the past hustings, has consciously decided to keep equi-distant from both this time, and has conveyed clear terms and conditions to the other parties, mainly the leadership of alliance and the CM candidature of Anbumani. The party seems to have a long term plan for itself as well as its CM candidate Anbumani. Its vote share came down from 5.2 per cent, which it registered in the last assembly elections, to 4.4 per cent in the parliament elections. With a new style of campaigning along with an image makeover, it may be expected to regain its old strength of 5.5 to 6 per cent vote share and nothing more than that.
As far as PWA is concerned, Vijayakanth and to some extent Vasan are its only strength. But, they may only help it to attain the third position next to AIADMK and DMK. It is an irony that Vijayakanth’s DMDK, which singlehandedly held the third position with a vote share of 8 to 10 per cent, got reduced to 5.1 per cent in 2014 and driven to a state of seeking alliances to maintain its third position and regain the lost share. Vijayakanth has only to blame himself for this, as he failed to perform to the expectation of the people, as the leader of opposition in the state assembly.
While the BJP at the center has been earning a good name under Modi’s stewardship as Prime Minister for its clean and performing governance, his act of leaving the BJP led NDA and joining the also-rans in the PWA will be seen only as an act of stupidity by the people. His foolish calculation of leaving BJP and joining hands with useless non-entities has made his second rung leaders leave his party. Had he joined DMK-Congress alliance, or stayed with BJP, his men would not have deserted him. While he had already lost half a dozen of his MLAs to AIADMK, he lost a few more after this decision of joining PWA. While it is a certainty that he will lose the status of leader of opposition after this election, it is going to be difficult for him to retain his vote share of 5 per cent.
DMK Chief and Patriarch Karunanidhi is contesting as a CM candidate for a record sixth term. DMK’s last rule between 2006 and 2011 was so bad that people are yet to forgive the party. All bad deeds of the party such as Rowdyism exhibited by the ministers and party leaders in land grabs, the corruption which exposed the party’s greed for money and the family’s arrogance which was exhibited all through the five years are still afresh in the memory of the people of Tamil Nadu. DMK is always acknowledged as a party with a standard vote share of not less than 25 per cent. However, during the last outing for the assembly, it went below the 25 per cent mark and got only 22.4 per cent, thereby losing the leader of the opposition status, as Vijayakanth’s DMDK gained that status by winning more number of seats due to the alliance with AIADMK. Although it could gain 1 per cent during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it may at the most be expected to reach the 25 per cent mark in the coming elections.
The party banks on the anti-incumbency factor and the Tamil Nadu electorate’s habit of voting alternatively for the two Dravidian majors. Karunanidhi’s heir apparent M.K.Stalin had just completed a tour of the state in an attempt to strike a direct relationship with people. He also projected himself as a future messiah of Tamil Nadu and the one who is going to liberate it from the clutches of AIADMK. But unfortunately for him, he couldn’t get the response which he expected from the people.
Karunanidhi on the verge of senility, Stalin lacking the required charisma, Azhagiri sidelined by his own family and Kanimozhi embroiled in corruption cases are all major factors which have alienated the people from the DMK family. In addition to this is another factor that the people have still not forgotten the atrocities committed by the second rung leaders of DMK during the period 2006 to 2011.
As both DMK and Congress cannot afford to break the unholy alliance, it continues in this election too. While Congress was at the helm of affairs at the centre in 2011, it could bargain and get 63 seats. But, since it suffered a huge defeat at the hands of BJP in 2014, DMK was able to restrict its share to only 40 seats this time. The Congress party lost heavily, a huge 5 per cent vote share, in the 2014 parliament elections and got reduced itself to just 4.3 per cent. As a result, it got another huge blow, when G.K.Vasan created a vertical split and took a major chunk with him by forming the Tamil Manila Congress (TMC) again. The left over is also riddled with factions and the party is in a miserable condition in the state. So, if it retains its 4 per cent share, though unlikely, the alliance can reach only 29 per cent (25+4).
On the other hand, the ruling party AIADMK is comfortably placed, as it gained a solid vote bank of 6 per cent from 38.4 per cent in 2011 to 44.3 per cent in 2014. However, it has got its own problems, as it is a fact that the party has not performed well in the last five years. Governance is only on papers and nothing is seen in reality. Baring a couple of welfare measures such as AMMA Canteen and AMMA water, other schemes such as AMMA Medicals and AMMA Salt have not been successful. The freebies have attained a stage that people are not so enthused by them. People’s expectation of governance have gone beyond freebies. However, the freebies have become a regular part of the parties’ manifestos. Jayalalitha also has the habit of announcing many schemes under Rule 110 of the Assembly Proceedings which entail no discussion, and most of them are not followed up by the government and they end up only on papers.
Apart from these drawbacks, the Law & Order situation in the state is miserable and extremely bad as evidenced by the spate of murders, riots and many other violent incidents perpetrated by the Jihadis. The situation is so bad that a Tamil Daily has made a daily feature giving details of thefts, robberies and chain snatchings. She has just not taken any efforts to contain them, and on the contrary, her act of appeasing them for want of vote banks has emboldened them to commit more and more atrocities. The “Hindu Munnani” (Hindu Front), a part of Sangh Parivar has come
out with an exhaustive documentary by name “Tamil Nadu in the Grip of Islamic Terrorism”, detailing these atrocities.
Another issue that may go against her is the government’s response to the recent rains and floods in the northern districts including Chennai. While the central government rose to the occasion and delivered the needed support demanded by the state, the state government was found wanting in its delivery.
Jayalalitha’s disproportionate assets case against her may not be an issue, as the people have seen accumulation of assets several times more than her by the DMK politicians including the Patriarch’s family. However, people may give a second thought if she gets convicted before the elections, which is unlikely to happen.
In spite of all these issues, even if she loses 5 per cent to 6 per cent of vote share, she is likely to stand strong with 38 per cent share.
The onus to liberate the state from the clutches of sickening Dravidian politics lies on BJP. But unfortunately, the party doesn’t seem to realise its responsibility. Initially it did the blunder of following the footsteps of Congress, by aligning with DMK and AIADMK alternatively during every electoral outing. The party, which had 4 MPs and 4 MLAs with a decent vote share during Vajpayee era, floundered to capitalise on it and miserably failed to raise the graph. The Party was never seen as a viable alternative by the people, as it failed to take people’s issues and fight for them. Required field work was missing leading to loss of touch with people and ground reality, and as a result, the vote share also started dwindling.
Even if it had not performed in 2006 elections, there was some expectation that it would focus on field work targeting the 2011 elections. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Even after that, when there was a nationwide anger with UPA and a ‘Modi Wave’ was quite visible throughout the country in 2014, the state unit failed again to capitalise on it. Instead of that, it stitched a botched alliance with discards such as Vaiko (MDMK) and a few non-entities like A.C.Shanmugam (PNK – Puthiya Neethi Katchi) and Pachamuthu (IJK – Inthiya Jananayaka Katchi). Vijayakanth (DMDK) and Dr.Ramadoss (PMK) were the only entities who had some value in the electorate, but with a limited share. Some of the BJP leaders were also seen with separatists like Seeman of Naam Thamizhar Katchi, which has not gone down well with the electorate. The state unit was so lethargic and pathetic that they even lost their candidature in Ooty constituency due to irresponsible filing of nomination papers. Jayalalitha entered the fray with just one slogan, “Who is great, Gujarat’s Modi or Tamil Nadu’s Lady?” and the people of the state unhesitatingly, chose her and she romped home with a huge victory of 37 seats out of 39. The party gained some respect because of the victory of Pon Radhakrishnan in Kanyakumari.
Even while the Narendra Modi government has been performing extremely well at the center, giving clean and efficient governance with so many people oriented welfare schemes, the state unit has not taken the message to the people. For the last two years, the party, baring a few occasions, has not been seen working in the field. A sustained effort has been missing. The “Missed Call” method of membership drive has ended up as a huge joke, as it lacked focus and effort.
The state unit failed to capitalise on the good work done by the center on the issue of fishermen vis-à-vis Sri Lankan affairs. When Pon Radhakrishnan was the State President, he was seen campaigning across the state regularly taking specific issues on hand. Such a sustained work has been found missing after his term. Had the party continued from where he left, it would have won the hearts of the people to some extent, which has not happened.
Even as the election is fast approaching and leaders of other parties are seen campaigning, the state unit has been busy chasing Vijayakanth for alliance. Even after the alliance formations have been finalised, the party has not come out with its complete list of candidates and the election manifesto.
Another important issue is that the media management by the state unit is not up to the mark. It is true that the media is hostile to the party. But that cannot be an excuse to the lack of visibility in the media. A sustained relationship with the media will pay well like how it is happening in the center and other states. Participating in TV debates is one thing; but what is more important is to arrange for the publication of its works, efforts and other people welfare oriented jobs in the mainstream media.
Even now it is not late for the party. It can select some fifty constituencies and plan its campaigning judiciously. With the strengths of the good performance of the Modi government and the pathetic state of Tamil Nadu under AIADMK, the party can reach out to the people utilising both factors to its advantage. This is also the right time for the party to make full use of the jihadi documentary released by Hindu Munnani, so that, it can open the eyes of the people to the dangerous reality prevailing in the state. By focusing on selected fifty constituencies and with a sustained campaigning, it can certainly open its account with respectable number of seats in the assembly, which will pave the way for forming a government in 2021.
The minority communities have always been very clever in lending their support. The organisations split themselves in extending support to both DMK and AIADMK. Their selection of constituencies and candidates is made as per a scripted plan and the communities vote en masse to the chosen candidate. For example, Ambur and Vaniyambadi are Muslim dominated towns in Vellore district. While DMK has given Ambur to Muslim party, AIADMK has given Vaniyambadi to a Muslim party. So, the Muslims in both the parties will vote only to the Muslim candidates and the community will have more number of representatives in the assembly. This has been the strategy adopted by the community. The same is the case with the Christians too. As they vote en masse based on the dictates given in Churches and Mosques, both the Dravidian majors enjoy their support and both the communities enjoy the patronage of whoever forms the government.
Result written on the wall
Jayalalitha, despite giving pathetic governance, stands tall with the strength of just two factors in this election. One, the opposition is split wide into four teams and their vote shares are also limited with no chance for a growth. Two, even if her party loses a huge share of 5 per cent to 6 per cent from its present status, it will stand number one with 38 percent share. So, her victory is already written on the wall.
Considering the fact that the governance has been miserable for the last five years with a bad law and order situation, AIADMK coming back is certainly a bad news for the people of Tamil Nadu.
By B.R.Haran, from Chennai