Chalking out a new path
Rise of MK Stalin with an altogether fresh political perspective heralds a new era in Tamil Nadu's political landscape
MK Stalin demonstrated his political acumen, gathered over 54 years of public life, in the assembly elections. He faced his opponents with patience and worked untiringly to claim victory. His hard work and perseverance remain unmatched. In the absence of his father, he managed the whole campaign under his leadership. The social media campaign unleashed against him was not only tackled but also his positive image was framed. Till the verdict, it had been the politics to reach power, but now he embarks in swift action as the whole society is expecting more from him to fulfil his promises, particularly the tackling of Covid-19. Until the electoral campaign was over, he was cautious and raised hope among the cadres to win the election. He was a Stalin of the old party with the conventional style of functioning.
The emergence of a new leader in Stalin is reflected in the formation of the ministries. He signalled the party cadres, secondary leaders, MLAs and officials that he is chalking out a new path wherein one could not expect the old style of functioning. The ministry formation is a blend of old and new, performers and patriarchs, to run the government and manage the crisis besides achieving development. In appearance he is emerging like J Jayalalitha but, in action, he signals the coming of clean governance and administration. There are heartburns as many could not get expected ministerial berths, but Stalin is clear about where to go and how. The appointment of the Chief Secretary and other secretaries who are known for their honesty and rectitude is an indication of this fact. Serious jobs have been given to junior ministers who are known for their past performances. It will be easy for him to manage them. He is not a novice in administration. He was a deputy chief minister and a cabinet minister in his father's rule and has also handled the local body portfolio. During that time, Stalin had emerged as a non-corrupt administrator and a performer. His long political career will help him manage the party and politics, and his extensive experience as a legislator will help him lead assembly affairs in a meaningful way. He informed the ministers openly in the meeting that he won't spare anyone indulging in rent-seeking. When some party men indulged in vandalism in the Amma canteen, he immediately removed them from the party and asked the police to book them.
Stalin visited veteran politicians to seek their blessings. His outreach to opposition leaders indicates that he wants to cultivate a decent political culture of mutual respect and understanding among political parties to evolve consensus on critical issues. He wants to bring the adversaries on board and it is being liked by many opinion-makers. Though he made a statement that Tamil Nadu may not be able to bear the impact of another lockdown but, when experts said it is the only option, he accepted and made a bold decision of closure of liquor shops, drawing appreciation from all segments. Without making noise, he raises hope among the people that Tamil Nadu will successfully manage the second wave. His promises are big, requiring huge resources, yet he has to deliver. A few promises have been fulfilled through new decisions on the first day itself. Stalin will gear up the machinery to work at a faster pace.
He knows pretty well that there is a strong opposition with the backing of the voters with four per cent less than his party's vote share. He never said that AIADMK has to be wiped away from Tamil Nadu. Having realized the strength of the opposition, he wants to earn support for his actions.
Tamil Nadu is known for its regionalist culture, and on this count, the DMK made huge commitments, fulfilment of which requires unison. Through his sagacious and mature political action, he will take more opinion makers on his side. If he progresses in the same way, he will maintain space for opposition parties which will enable the end of the vituperative politics entertained so far. Meeting O Panneerselvam, the then Deputy Chief Minister, on a tea hosted by the Governor, and seeking the wishes of Dr Ramadoss of PMK over phone augured well. Stalin is preparing himself to face the challenges in his own way. It is good for the politics, governance and administration of Tamil Nadu.
The writer is a former Professor and Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, Gandhigram Rural Institute. Views expressed are personal