A new thesis of TN politics
The new middle-class is sore from the corruption rampant in Tamil politics while becoming desperate in the search for a more enterprising alternative.
The Tamil Nadu government is under attack from all sides. Yet, it survives despite the severe moral and legal constraints. This can be attributed to the leadership of the present Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy as he followed the footsteps of his mentor J Jayalalithaa in one aspect, namely, working on the needs of the party men, party MLAs and MPs and cleverly managing the moves of the opposition parties. Any government can be destabilised if it compromises upon the confidence and faith of its people. But, someone has to act and mobilise the people to ultimately, destabilise the government. At present, the government continues not because of its own merit or strength but due to the weakness of the opposition parties. The investment in industries has gone down to the lowest ebb. The state's debt burden has gone up to a critical point. Agriculture has become problematic as Cauvery water has not arrived within its scheduled time. The hampering monsoon rain deficit continues this year too. Corruption has permeated into every walk of life. People have become almost immune to the prevailing conditions of corruption. The small industries have sunk into oblivion after demonetisation.
Corruption has been deepened in the educational sector and, thereby, the quality of education has been starkly lowered and, as a result, unemployable individuals are produced abundantly and successfully. The so-called rights of the state have been slowly taken away by the centre. The public transport system is sinking due to rampant mismanagement. Despite the Supreme Court judgment, the Tamil Nadu government is unable to exert pressure on the Central government to form a Cauvery water authority. Time and again, the natural resources are being exploited, more specifically, sand has been heavily exploited, in turn, leading to massive damage being caused to the environment by the sand mafia who flaunt their flourishing connections with the politicians. The living conditions of the farmers and agricultural labourers are no way better than the urban poor as farming has not enhanced the income of either the farmers or the farm labourers. It has been more than a year that the local body election has been postponed. For the existing conditions of the state, every political party argued that both the Dravidian parties ought to be held responsible. Both M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa were responsible as they had been repeatedly criticised by all the smaller parties. It has been indicated by Vijaykanth, Seeman, Vaiko, Dr Ramadoss, both left parties and BJP. Yet, in the previous assembly elections, these smaller parties could not remove DMK and AIADMK from the centre-stage. These smaller parties, over time, have been greatly marginalised. Although both Rajinikanth and Kamala Hasan shared the platform with the DMK leaders, even now both actors hail the dynamic M Karunanidhi and vivacious J Jayalalithaa as strong personalities and performers. Both sought the blessings of the DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi for their political career. The prevailing socio-economic conditions of Tamil Nadu are the outcome of the rules of both the leaders in the past. By hearing the speeches of both actors, one would get more confusion and less clarity.
All the ills which both actors are indicating are not simply the creations of Edappadi Palanisamy and O Panneerselvam. They are the results of the political manoeuvring and governance performance of M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa. Before the leadership of both, the megastars, Rajinikanth and Kamal Hasan are nothing. Since both leaders are absent in the political scene, both Dravidian parties have been disturbed by BJP; through the federal government, these two actors are taking undue advantage of the situation. Realistically, if anyone analyses the conditions of Tamil polity, society and more specifically the Tamil psyche, the two actors have to face an upbeat and turbulent political weather. The organisational strength of the DMK has always been noteworthy. It is a scientifically organised party. It faced three major setbacks and, thereafter, made their comeback successfully. Further, the cadres have been cultivated and oriented in a client pattern model. They will give their life for the party as they receive benefits from the party while it is in power.
In the same way, the AIADMK cadres have been oriented by J Jayalalithaa to the fact that the cadres will receive all the benefits of the government while the AIADMK remains in power. They have enjoyed these benefits. They have never batted so much as an eyelid at the rampancy of the corrupt practices. Without corruption, one cannot survive in the politics of Tamil Nadu. The cadres have been oriented in this distinct way of practice by both J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi. It is true that the cadres are disturbed and they will align with any leader or party which promotes the same political culture nurtured by Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK cadres are looking for leaders as they rely on the face of the torch bearer. Now, there is also TTV Dinakaran, who is slowly emerging as the leader moving down the path set by Jayalalithaa. It is true that a new middle class, which is sore over the Dravidian parties because of their corrupt practices, are looking for a new option and a more plausible alternative. They are mere voters, not cadres. A new generation of voters, comprising of nearly one crore faithful citizens, have been disillusioned about the functioning of the Dravidian parties. This sets the stage for national parties—both BJP and Congress—to present an alternative. But, they are not well-organised, they may try to move either towards Rajinikanth or towards Kamal Hasan. Both actors do not have robust solutions to the ills that are afflicting the Tamil society. It is only the PMK which has presented an alternative agenda, scientifically prepared with 5 per cent of the vote bank. But, the party encounters the casteist image that it had acquired once and that was repeatedly imposed upon it by the media.
In this context, if anyone carefully brings together a few parties with alternative programmes that are questioning the image of the prevalent parties – the forged alliance could give a credible option with the possibility of a new regime. If there is no such new formation and there is the absence of a programme, if Stalin takes a sagacious strategy to forge an alliance with the parties which have got vote banks not mere leaders with new programmes, the DMK will emerge victorious as it relies on the working of its strong cadres. Now, it depends entirely on the formation of an alliance. Further, everyone is under the impression that the people will vote for a strong leader. People prefer a strong party and a strong leader with a new programme and new agenda to address the problems afflicting the Tamil society. We have to wait and watch.
(The author is Professor and Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, Gandhigram Rural Institute. The views expressed are strictly personal)