How the politics in Tamil Nadu will shape up with the departure of Jayalalithaa and now, M Karunanidhi, remains to be seen. Are we going to witness the Dravidian politics taking a back seat?
SS Mahadevan, Chennai
MK Stalin with his supporters coming out of Tamil Nadu Assembly
Just stand on Dr Radhakrishnan Road in South Chennai and stare at Bay of Bengal (Marina beach) that the road leads you to. To your left lies Gopalapuram which lost its nonagenarian celebrity resident M.Karunanidhi on August 7. And to your right lies Poes Garden which lost its own celebrity resident J Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016. With the passing away of the duo, the road lost its eminent status too – it was the “VIP route “, as per police reckoning.
When Veterans Departed
Departure of the veterans has left the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as well as Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) gasping for want of top leadership or a supreme leader capable of keeping the herd together essentially to ward off poaching. “Vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics” was the way the predicament was described by aspiring heroes with political dreams. Rajinikanth and later Kamal Hasan are now vying to fill the vacuum in the political space. Of course, the filmy forage into politics began in February, soon after Jayalalithaa’s demise and even as Muthuvel Karunanidhi’s (MK) ill health was forcing him into retirement gradually. But this development is on the sidelines as on date.
Tamil Nadu voters too, are certainly tired of the electoral choices before them, having voted in and out one of the two major Dravidian parties, the DMK and the AIADMK for over five decades
The DMK party men, 90 percent of whom are Hindus according to MK Stalin, find public space in the state slowly shedding the bizarre brand of secularism promoted by Karunanidhi. S Gurumurthy, political commentator and Editor of Thuglak, describes that as the “contribution of MK to Tamil Nadu politics”. His brand of secularism degenerated “from being just sensitive to the minorities and became insensitive to the majority” That has whetted the appetite of a section of the minority with anti-Hindu rhetoric. There is signal fallout as post Karunanidhi days unfolded – dropping atheist posturing by the roadside. The hint was loud enough when DMK men and women rubbished the most indecent appeal by the DK leader K.Veeramani standing in front of Kaveri hospital in Alwarpet not to pray to God for the speedy recovery of the ailing inpatient Karunanidhi. To Veeramani that was superstition! At the end of the day the position of Raj Guru that DK covets in the DMK durbar looks a distant dream.
Strides of Change
With Thalaivar (MK) having departed, any DMK functionary henceforth need not keep doubling as Bhakta indoors and atheist in public so as not to offend ‘Thalaivar’ as long as he was alive. The Gopalapuram household of late Karunanidhi now unabashedly presents the look of a devout Hindu family ceremoniously mourning its departed patriarch – with a ‘Kamakshi’ oil lamp shedding light all 24 hours on a garlanded photo of ‘Kalainjar’. That is about the feelings of the man in the street. Now, let us take a look at palace manoeuvres.
First comes the “jinxed” Marina burial: As of today, there are 4 former Chief Ministers of the state ‘Resting in Peace’ beneath the sands of Marina beach. Just 3 years after C N. Annadurai’s burial there, his monolith DMK split into two. MG Ramachandran launched ADMK in 1972. Following MGR’s burial in December 1987, his outfit split into Janaki faction and Jaya faction, though power patched the divide soon. After Jayalalithaa’s burial there, her AIADMK finds itself in the throes of impending split, with its 18 MLAs defying CM Edappadi Palanisami – Dy CM O.Panneerselvam duo; the rebels function under T.T.V. Dinakaran, kin of Jaya’s associate Sasikala serving a four-year sentence in Bengaluru prison. Latest is the case of Karunanidhi. After he was interred on August 8 in the Marina beach close to his mentor Annadurai, his Madurai - based elder son M.K.Alagiri who had been expelled from DMK four years ago, was seen at his father's grave. He told reporters that he has the support of his father's loyalists – an unmistakeable warning to younger brother and DMK’s working President MK Stalin, who is yet to formally take charge of the party.
Next day, the DMK executive met in Chennai but failed to name the party chief. Even while MK was alive, Alagiri had fired the first salvo, hinting that only power seekers hang around Stalin. Tamilnadu BJP president Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan put it delectably, “Several stars appear in the sky once the sun sets. Let us wait and see which one outshines others.” But she added, “BJP is not for cashing in on vacuum created by departure of powerful leaders. We are strengthening BJP at booth level”,setting at rest, for the time being, media projections bunching Alagiri – Rajini- AIADMK-BJP. All the same, Alagiri is said to be close to Rajini. He met Rajini on August 1 and said, “I shall not split DMK, it will break of its own”. Meanwhile, wall posters screaming about emergence of ‘Kalajnar DMK’ appeared across Madurai, the Alagiri bastion, incidentally.
Second, the very mention of a vacuum in the post Jaya – Karuna interregnum was shot down with disdain by the spokespersons of both Kazhagams, only to be meekly admitted now in terms of their inability to throw up leaders of Jaya – Karuna stature. Then ensued AIADMK’s friendly overtures to BJP over a period; it’s crucial role in the election of NDA candidate to Rajya Sabha Deputy Speaker post is seen as an example. The visit of President Kovind and Vice President Venkayya Naidu to Kaveri Hospital and later Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Rajaji Hall where Karunanidhi’s body was kept for public tributes was made out to be a new thaw in BJP – DMK relations, only to be negated citing it as customary etiquette. Though it would be hasty to depict this as, “Tamil Nadu inching back to national mainstream”, a wilful effort gaining momentum towards that end cannot be ruled out. Congress, of course, is mentioned as non-existent in the state.
Third, the Tamil Nadu voters too, are certainly tired of the electoral choices before them, having voted in and out one of the two major Dravidian parties, the DMK and the AIADMK for over five decades. Take the case of RK Nagar Assembly constituency in Chennai. It elected an independent. The voters saw to it that both DMK and AIADMK candidates are trounced in the by election held there in December 2017.
In a few months from now, Thiruparankundram (held by AIADMK) and Thiruvarur (held by Karunanidhi) Assembly constituencies are in for by elections. Trepidation is the word to describe the condition of both the big Kazhagams. Leave alone the much touted vacuum in the state; filling up the vacancy at the top in both DMK and AIADMK seems to be an uphill task. This is a scenario that Tamil Nadu has never witnessed before. n