Major political realignments to determine the outcome in poll-bound Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Dravidian parties fight for existence

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In poll-bound Tamil Nadu and its adjoining UT of Puducherry, cobbling up alliance talks, kicking off campaigning, spreading canards, dolling out false assurances, announcements of tall promises, opening up of memorials, mausoleum, a slew of welfare measures and crossing over to other promising political parties are the order of the day. While DMK, AIADMK, BJP and other majors finalizing strategies, DMDK, PMK, VCK, MDMK and other parties using pressure tactics to get more seats. All these are moving in top gear. The release of Sasikala from Bengaluru prison, Rajnikant’s close aide Arjuna Murthy and Madurai former DMK strong man M K Azhagiri launching their political parties respectively have kept the rivals on tenterhooks.
AIADMK has made in categorical terms that Chief Minister Edapadi K Palaniswamy would be its CM candidate, whoever accepts him can remain in the alliance. This has put at rest the ongoing war of words between BJP and AIADMK second-rung leaders as the former said it would announce the name of the CM candidate before polls keeping its tradition. Now alliance talks are firming up between these two parties. CM Palaniswamy government has been announcing various welfare projects, assurances minority communities, inaugurating memorial for J Jayalalithaa. He unveiled a mausoleum for late AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha on the Marina beach on 27th of this month.
A large number of AIADMK cadre thronged the venue flouting pandemic social distancing norms. The TN CM missed no time to hit out at his political opponent M K Stalin. At the function, he accused Stalin of attempting to stall the construction of a mausoleum for Jayalalitha by moving courts with petition after petition. He pointed out, “When his father and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi died, Stalin met him to allot a place at Marina. When I said there were cases, the same Stalin made his ‘benamies’ withdraw all petitions overnight which was clear how he has been against the building a mausoleum for our leader”. The museum and the knowledge park located next to it are yet to be opened.
On the same day, a day of this, CM Palaniswamy declared open the memorial costing 68 crore rupees, set up by TN government, at the poes garden of Jayalalithaa’s residence ‘ Veda Nilayam’. The government has exhibited the personal belongings of Jayalalithaa, including a Veena, painted in green and red, mementoes, and personal collection of over 8,400 titles neatly catalogued. Jayalalithaa’s niece and nephew moved the High court seeking higher compensation as they have been declared legal heirs of her property. The government has taken over her Poes Garden to make it a memorial two years back. CM Palaniswamy also unveiled the life-size 9 feet bronze statue of Jayalalithaa on the campus of the Tamil Nadu state council for Higher Education. He announced that her birthday that falls on 24 February would be celebrated by the government. As part of the smart city project, CM inaugurated the “Namma Chennai” (our Chennai), selfie point on Marina. Earlier, the AIADMK kick-started election campaigning titled ‘Vetrinadai Podum Tamizhagam’ ( TN Marches on successfully). This was to counter DMK Stalin’s ‘Tamilgam Meetpom’ ( Retrive Tamil Nadu) and Vidiyalai Nokki Stalin Kural ( Stalin’s voice for awakening). Palaniswamy said while MG Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa fought for the rights and cause of the common man, Stalin’s father Karunanidhi worked for his family. He said AIADMK has been facing the people with its successful welfare schemes while the DMK has none to take credit for.
M K Stalin, who made a mockery of Gram Sabha meet concept, organized meetings all over the state with DMK party men as attendees. He made dramas by facing the questions from the select audience and answered them by referring a piece of paper which he always carries. His gaffes, faux pas, double entendre made him a laughing stock and people enjoyed his comedies. TN CM once again dared MK Stalin to debate with him on corruption and Stalin was not competent to be a leader. He said Stalin has no courage to take on the AIADMK and is trying only to defame the ruling party by diverting the people attention by making false promises through Grama Sabha meetings.
DMK, which has supported the Karuppar Kootam, which made videos on Hindu gods in poor light, saw the consolidation Hindus. To win their hearts, he and his son Udayanidhi and sister Kanimozhi are making efforts to prove that they are not anti-Hindus. The recent one is the Stalin posing Vel ( part of Lord Murgan’s weapon) and Kanimozhi sporting with vermilion on her forehead. The DMK never extended greetings on Hindu festivals. CM Palaniswamy accused Stalin of deception of posing with Lord Muruga’s spear-like weapon, Vel saying divine symbol has come to Stalin’s attention since assembly elections are around the corner. Referring to Stalin holding the Vel, TN CM said it was an act of deceit saying DMK leaders spoke on things for the outside world but he knew that it was not his conviction. “the God will not grant you boon if you only receive Lord Muruga’s Vel. The boon will be only for the AIADMK”.
Now DMK leader is seen visiting temples, taking part in Hindu festivals, sporting religious marks. Journalist Nambi Naryananan said “Stalin is cheating TN voters. If DMK is not anti- Hindu, he would have wished the people on Thai Kirthigai which is a government holiday from this year onwards. BJP and Hindu Munnani and other outfits have for a long time been accused DMK of offending Hindu’s spiritual beliefs and religious sentiments.
Now Stalin has embarked on a new campaign called “Ungal Thoguthiyil Stalin (Stalin at your constituency) from the spiritual town of Thiruvannamalai on 29th. Detailing the strategy Stalin said he would receive petitions from the public in all the 234 constituencies and give the top priority to address their issues ranging from non-availability of drinking water, pattas, old-age pension and so on. “I will receive the petitions and acknowledging them all; the petitions will be put in a box and it will be sealed. My first work is to address your personal problems. The first 100 days of my government will be dedicated to addressing your grievances in a mission mode” Stalin said.
Indian National Congress former president Rahul Gandhi toured southern districts of Tamil Nadu with his share of comedies. BJP National general secretary C T Ravi in a fitting reply to Rahul Gandhi said: “ who banned Jallikattu? Who submitted the affidavit to court? Who try to destroy the Tamil culture? Rahul Gandhi, his party and the DMK… they destroyed the Tamil Culture”. He said while the Congress-led UPA government attached importance to Mugal era monuments, it was Modi who was giving importance to Indian monuments and he showcased Mamallapuram to visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.
After serving four years in Bengaluru Parappana Agrahara jail in a disproportionate assets case, VK Sasikala, ( confidante of late Jayalalithaa) was formally released on 27th. But she will have to remain in Hospital to continue to be treated for Covid 10 for the next few days. J Illavarsi and VN Sudharakaran, co-accused in the DA case, are yet to pay the fine. Sasikala, who was expelled from AIADMK, when she tried to take control of the party with her supporters. She paid the fine of Rs 10 crores. Her release from Jail and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran heading AMMK political outfit, the political spectrum in Tamil Nadu may see a significant transition. Her return to active politics in view of Covid 19 infection, hinges on so many if and buts. Her release may have an impact on the TN voters’ mood towards the AIADMK ahead of the TN assembly polls due in April or May. Sources in AIADMK say “She and Dhinakaran may not create any trouble for AIADMK. Delhi is making efforts for a patch-up between them warning any wrong move may help DMK to gain power and it will engage in witch-hunting by dusting the old and closed files to foist corruption cases and put them behind bars. DMK will do this to keep its leader and his grooming heir apparent to rule TN without any opposition. We believe in view of health conditions she will keep away from active politics till polls are over”.
BJP chief L Murugan told media persons on 29th that impact of the release of Sasikala from jail on Tamil Nadu politics depends on the political stand she would take. BJP national president is scheduled to visit Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to kick start poll campaign on 30th January. CT Ravi was confident of winning double-digit seats in TN assembly polls. Murugan said the alliance that was formed for Lok Sabha pools will continue for the ensuing elections too”.
BJP has been attracting young talents like former police officer Annamalai, IRS officer Saravana Kumaran, former Dy Speaker of TN assembly and DMK leader V P Duraisamy, AIADMK ex Karur secretary V V Sendhilnathan, Actress Kushboo Sundar among others. BJP’s vel yatra, against all odds, has boosted its image among Hindus. This yatra and other measures helped people to come to know about the projects, schemes initiated for them in Tamil Nadu by the Modi government.
In neighbouring Puducherry, Congress Minister A Namassivayam, who was projected as CM candidate in last polls, and his supporter and MLA Theeppainthan joined BJP at Delhi on 28th. Namassivayam started his career as a youth leader in DMK and MDMK. He was a minister in the Coalition government led by NR Rangaswamy and in 2015 he was appointed Puducherry Congress committee president. There are some more Congress MLAs are expected to join the BJP soon. This will give a fillip to the growth of the party in the union territory and it will not be a surprise even if BJP forms the next government there.
Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) indicated at the possibility of holding a meeting in the first week of next month to finalize the electoral alliance. The party has been demanding an exclusive reservation for MBC quota (20 per cent). PMK founder Ramadoss said that the AIADMK government acceding party’s demand. PMK also held parlays with DMK without success. DMDK treasurer Premalatha, wife of party founder actor turned politician Vijayakant said her party seeks 41 seats to be allotted in its alliance with the AIADMK. With Vijayakant down with ailments and losing popularity and power, the numbers is too high for any political party to part with. AIADMK-BJP campaign is trying to accommodate all parties to stop DMK from winning polls.
DMK, which has set the target of winning 200 seats of total 234, will not be generous this time. It told its allies VCK, MDMK, Muslim League and others that it would allow a few seats and they should contest on DMK symbol only. Congress, which was a ruling party for DMK came to power, is now begging for a double-digit number of seats. Citing its abysmal performance in the last year polls, DMK, it is learnt, is offering a lesser number of seats. Congress, VCK, left and other fringe parties may form a new front if they part with DMK. In Puducherry, DMK is projecting former Union Minister Jagathratchagan as CM candidate which irritated its alliance partner Congress. In Puducherry in all probabilities, the fight will be between DMK, BJP and AIADMK alliance. Possibilities are brighter for a three-cornered contest.
Kamal Hassan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam ( MNM) will field candidates in Tamil Nadu assembly polls. So far it has been saying fighting alone but getting feelers from DMK to join its alliance. Naam Tamizhar Katchi leader Seeman is trying his political fortunes again by contesting all 234 seats alone.
Citing health grounds, Rajinikanth had bid goodbye to his about to be floated political party in last December. On 3rd December he announced his new political would be launched on 31st but on 29th he backtracked his announcement. This left Rajinikanth's close confidant Ra. Arjuna Murthy and Tamil aruvi Manian in a lurch and the latter decided that he would not enter politics in his lifetime. In the meantime, Arjuna Murthy announced that he would launch a new political party in a week. He said, “the proposed party will work towards ushering in the much-needed change on the political and government front in Tamil Nadu. Out of the six crore voters in Tamil Nadu, more than four crores are aged below 40 years. There is going to be a change in 2021. Not just Tamil Nadu but the whole of the country is going to witness. The party will travel on the path of inclusiveness. Ours will be an alternative not just to DMK and AIADMK but also to the BJP. I appeal to the members of Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM) to consider supporting me. We will field candidates in all 234 constituencies”. He refused to answer whether Rajini would extent support, give voice or not."
Periyar ideology, which the Dravidian parties cashed in on for the past 60 years, has lost its sheen. If they had continued on that path, there would not be a need for them to carry Vel,” Arjuna Murthy explained. He said “I have a huge value and respect for Rajinikanth and accepts his decision not to enter politics due to health reasons. I will not indulge in any activity that will hurt the feelings of Rajinikanth. I will not use his image, name, or his punch dialogues anywhere in this party. He is my leader. If his fans believe in my capability and understand my vision, they are welcome to join my party. This is an invitation, as Rajinikanth himself said that his fans can join any party of their choice”. Unconfirmed sources said Rajinikanth who is acting in Sun pictures 'Annathe' movie, has been cajoled not to launch a new political party and staged a drama of crew members contracted Corona as they fear it would spoil the DMK’s winning chances. Rajinikantht had wanted to start a new political party with religious, spiritual basis and zero tolerance for corruption with talented persons at key posts in government.