Invitation to development debate
The new era of Tamil politics harbours the potential to move beyond the duopoly of DMK and AIADMK
After the demise of J. Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi, a few leaders argued for a new politics negating the politics perpetuated by both AIADMK and DMK. However, PMK had started this exercise in Tamil Nadu when both leaders were alive. PMK had long back released a report detailing the commissions and omissions of both the Dravidian parties. Later it prepared a very comprehensive development agenda for Tamil Nadu touching every aspect of Tamil society. They called it "development politics". Further, PMK openly invited political leaders for a debate with Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss on the issues regarding the development of Tamil Nadu. As it is being practised in the West, the leaders who are projected as Chief Ministerial candidates of the parties can be invited by the media to debate over the issues of the state. PMK will depute Ramadoss to public debate with leaders of other political parties. At one point in time, it openly challenged Stalin to come for a debate with Ramadoss. Now PMK is vigorously doing its field work and reaching out to different segments of Tamil population with a hope that it can move further to reach the centre stage.
It is unequivocal that PMK has got a rich development agenda as Nordic countries. No other party has got that kind of development agenda as it has. Ramadoss is not delivering the script written by his father or someone else. He internalised the development crises that affected the Tamil society. When he speaks, he touches the crises and issues with facts and figures. Unlike other leaders, he is not on the side of the problem but always on the side of the solution. No other leader has discussed the development issues very deeply as Ramadoss. He is not using inflammatory style while addressing the public. He uses the mass' language for communication. Both father and son never used rhetoric in their speeches. Both of them lent their ears to the intellectuals and repeatedly requested intellectuals, middle-class, and media to critically ponder over the agenda, approach, and their activities, and point out lacunas and shortcomings. PMK has a very strong foundation for Green Politics in Tamil Nadu. At present in Tamil Nadu, two parties are in the field in expanding the base. One is PMK and the other one is TTDinakaran's new party. TTV Dinakaran's move is to capture the AIADMK cadres and in that process, he has achieved unexpected progress. But PMK goes in its pace with development agenda. Many from the intellectual class, middle class, and sections of media have come to a point that PMK has got all wherewithals to become a party with a difference which is the need of the hour. They like the agenda and the capacity of the leader Anbumani Ramadoss but not sure about the caste tag. Because the consolidated vote bank of PMK is in the areas where the population of the caste is sizeable in number. The reality is that he only started the movement to uplift the Vanniar caste and he won the struggle but while sharing the benefits, many caste groups got advantages. PMK was born out of a movement. The party and the leaders have moved from the original base but it is only the intellectuals, middle class, and the media that are in the place where they were. In the last election, PMK entered into new areas and gained some votes.
The party expressed its willingness to tie up with other parties to push the development agenda and development politics. At one point in time, few parties including left openly attacked both Dravidian parties and wanted to dethrone both of them. Had they joined with the PMK in the last election itself, by this time a new coalition force would have been a reality. Now the context is ripe to initiate a debate over a new path by negating the two Dravidian parties and BJP, as the youth and new voters who are in social media are continuously harping on the new development agenda. By joining with PMK, a new framework of politics and development can be evolved. This is the only option to take away the politics of Tamil Nadu from corporate politics which thrives in corruption by promoting aggressive developmentalism at the cost of environment and ecology. Hence, now PMK again asks for an open debate on developmentalism and development politics and it is willing to debate with any party leader in any place. At this juncture, conscience-keepers have to take initiatives to bring the leaders on board to talk about development and development agenda instead of a rhetoric and retrograde, old and non-contextualised ethnic politics.
(The author is a former Professor, Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies Department of Political Science and Development Administration, Gandhigram Rural Institute, Gandhigram. The views expressed are strictly personal)