logo

Alternative to Dravidian giants

Tamil Nadu is now witnessing the emergence of several smaller parties which had up till now been overshadowed by AIADMK and DMK.

Alternative to Dravidian giants

After the death of MG Ramachandran, a number of political parties had been formed with the hope that space was now emerging in Tamil Nadu politics that could be used effectively to create a new narrative against the prevailing practice of dominance by the two parties, the AIADMK and the DMK. There was a general anxiety prevailing among the smaller political parties as the two dominant political parties with their strong leadership had reduced the political space for smaller players. It was felt that after the demise of MG Ramachandran, no leader in the AIADMK could consolidate the party like before. Unfortunately, all their hopes were belied by J Jayalalithaa through her relentless struggle against her political opponents, both within the party and outside. She retained the AIADMK as strong, dominant, vibrant, and more vigorous than ever before, by consolidating her position in the party and strategically marginalising the smaller parties.

It was a binary narrative between the AIADMK and the DMK under the strong leadership of J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi, respectively. Both parties captured power alternatively. As a result, all the smaller parties were rapidly marginalised. They could not expand and found it onerous to survive. A few political parties formed after the demise of MGR have now disappeared. But one political party, which had its origin through a movement for reservation of seats in education and employment for the Vanniar Caste, slowly moved towards the centre stage, as Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) after achieving the goal of 20 per cent reservation for the most backward castes strengthened its base as a party with a consolidated vote bank and with a clear agenda for the development of Tamil Nadu. For many, it is a surprise to see the steady growth of the party despite its caste-based branding by the mainstream media.
The PMK is the only party among the smaller bodies that boldly declared that it would stand on its own in the Assembly Election, as an alternative to the two Dravidian parties. The other smaller parties have also declared to contest the Assembly Elections, independent of either the DMK or the AIADMK, but not independently. They joined together and declared it as the People's Welfare Front (PWF). In the last Assembly election, the other smaller parties took the same stand to fight against the two Dravidian parties but they did not align with the PMK. The PWF did not take off but the PMK managed to consolidate its position by capturing a solid vote base despite not emerging victorious.
It is important to question why the smaller parties have united against the Dravidian leaders who had reigned the south. All the smaller parties had aligned with either DMK or AIADMK, in the past elections. But, they decided to defeat the two in the last general election. This is because the major parties now engage in corrupt practices ahead of ideological progression. They have restricted the cash inflow for the smaller parties, reducing their affectivity in field politics.
The two political parties have managed to amass wealth when they alternatively held power in Tamil Nadu. Corruption has become deep-rooted and people have become so immune that the two parties have managed to alter the entire course of politics. People who have money alone can survive in this game today. To contest in an election one needs massive amounts of funding. Both parties have treated the smaller parties, not as partners but as poor political units needed only at the time of elections.
The big brother attitude and corrupt practices of both parties have made the other smaller parties question their survival. Thus politics has been converted into a business venture. Yet, of all the smaller political parties, the PMK managed to preserve its distinct character as it is being nurtured single-handedly by Dr Ramadoss through his "politics of development engagement".
He engaged with his cadres in development politics rooted in green political values. No other party has attempted a similar development engagement. By evolving an alternative framework of development, the PMK has focused its politics towards the subalterns, more specifically the rural poor relying on agriculture. He captured the key issues faced by Tamil Nadu and evolved solutions to those issues. Believing that the leadership is ingrained in the Tamil psyche, a party has to show the leader to win the election. Hence, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss has been projected as its Chief Ministerial candidate. He proved himself as a man of action and exhibited his capacity during his ministership in the UPA government, under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh. The globally acclaimed "Rural Health Mission" scheme was his brainchild. During the last election, through his electoral campaign, he proved his capacity and emerged as a competent leader from the perception of the opinion makers and the media. Tamil Nadu has always been known for its strong leadership culture, from K Kamaraj to J Jayalalithaa.
Presently, no other party other than PMK has such an extensive framework agenda on alternative development. His agenda involves protection of farming, fishing, natural resources to promoting industrialisation. A concrete action plan for creating jobs and skilling the youth has also been prepared. At present, in the absence of M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa in the political scene, he has emerged as a more competent leader in the eyes of the public, intellectuals and the media. He has repeatedly underlined the course of politics he wishes to perpetuate.
Tamil Nadu, in the recent years, witnessed intense animosity and vituperative politics, which are not in tune with its democratic ethos. Hence, there emerged the need to practice "decent politics". Tamil Nadu is sinking in corruption that has been unfortunately regularised. Ramadoss has promised to eliminate corruption in governance and administration. His framework of development is based on the Nordic model of development, focusing on human growth. With the help of the intellectuals, the party has evolved a meaningful agenda for the development of Tamil Nadu. It is an alternative approach of development contrary to the populist framework of development evolved and practised competitively by both the DMK and the AIADMK. Now, he has made it clear, he will align with any political party but never with AIADMK or DMK.
From the days of Jallikattu, the youth movement gained momentum everywhere. The youth, those who are on social media do not seem to be inclined to support either DMK or AIADMK, as they have been saturated with the competitive, populist and corrupt practices developed by both parties in politics, governance, and administration. They are waiting for an alternative force and a new leader with an innovative approach and action plan.
This trend is a favourable factor for the PMK. But it depends on how the party is going to use this opportunity. Having seen this, a section of the media associated with the mainstream political parties is branding it again as the party of caste polarisation. It is a known fact that the PMK has moved over from the caste plank. Now, it all depends on the efficiency and strategies of the party to overcome this barrier.
(The author is Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies at Gandhigram Rural Institute. The views are strictly personal.)

Agencies

Agencies

Our Contributor help bring you the latest article around you


Exclusive

View All

Latest News

View All
Share it
Top