Message from R.K. Nagar by-election
T.T.V. Dinakaran is perceived as a strong leader along the lines of Jayalalithaa in charting his political course, writes G. Palanithurai
R. K. Nagar by-election in Tamil Nadu has thrown up a proposition that it is nothing but "cash for votes" by a section of the media and the political parties. Through this reductionism, voters have been belittled as if they are the aberrations of our democracy. Never have voters asked political parties to pay money for their votes. This practice was developed by the dominant, corporate-style, and resource-rich political parties in Tamil Nadu. This has been in practice for the past twenty years in Tamil Nadu. At one point of time, 'Cash for Votes' was hailed as a formula. Now it is a menace. Instead of belittling parties and their leaders who bribe voters and perfected it as a culture in electoral politics in Tamil Nadu, everyone indulged in denigrating the voters. It is a practice in Tamil Nadu voters receives money from the candidates but decisively cast votes based on certain factors which were socio-political and economic in nature and not for cash.
This is the backdrop for R.K. Nagar by-election: where a strong popular perception has been developed in Tamil Nadu that BJP through the Central government tried its level best to remove the influential family in the AIADMK and keep it under its fold to make a safe political entry in the mainstream politics of Tamil Nadu. In this context, the election was conducted as per the court direction. T.T.V. Dinakaran has not only won the election, but his margin of victory also surpassed the margin of J. Jayalalithaa and made the DMK candidate to forfeit the deposit money. T.T.V. Dinakaran was leading consistently in all 19 rounds of counting. He is independent, he is not popular as other party leaders, his symbol has no sanctity, and yet he won the election. It surprises and shocks many. The parties, not only the AIADMK and the DMK but also Congress, the left and VCK have been searching for their committed vote banks.
The victory of T.T.V. Dinakaran has brought certain broad conjectures which need further scientific investigation. The perceived sanctity attached to the two leaves and rising sun symbols have been lost in this election. It is a welcome sign that it has been demonstrated that votes cannot be easily snatched away from the people by showing the sanctity of the symbols.
People in Tamil Nadu have been in search of a leader after the demise of J. Jayalalithaa and the absence of M. Karunanidhi in active politics. Tamil Nadu is known for its leader-centric politics rather than party-centric from the days of K. Kamaraj to J. Jayalalithaa. Against this background, one has to look at the victory of T.T.V. Dinakaran. He neither had power, nor organisational support, nor the support of the Centre or the state government. The way he has been handled by the state machinery to eliminate him and his group from politics and the way he has responded to the challenges have changed the perception of the people in Tamil Nadu. From the eyes of the public, T.T.V. Dinakaran has got the DNA of J. Jayalalithaa in a different form. People compare T.T.V. Dinakaran with the leaders who are in power and the main opposition party today. The leaders who are in power could not consolidate their position and establish their credibility to run the government. In the same way, the leader of the opposition could not make use of this opportunity to bring any change in politics and governance. Both have failed miserably in their political mission. People have come to a conclusion that the entire political scenario could be transformed only through T.T.V. Dinakaran. Through the victory of T.T.V. Dinakaran, voters have given a clear-cut message to both the state and Central government that people of Tamil Nadu want a strong state government with a strong leader and not a lame duck government.
Corruption is not an issue in Tamil Nadu politics as people are immune to it. It has been alleged by the media, opinion-makers, and many smaller political parties that both the DMK and the AIADMK have successfully regularised corrupt practices in public life. That is why in Tamil Nadu smaller parties, both national and regional, wanted to drive out both corrupt parties from Tamil Nadu. They have tried in the last election, but they could not do so as both the parties have organised politics in such a way that those who work for the party will get the spoils if the party comes to power. These two political parties have used, the ideological legacy created by the founding fathers E.V. Ramasamy and C.N. Annadurai. Though these two parties have been branded as corrupt, these parties are known for their pro-poor policies, programmes, and schemes. Hence, these parties kept the mass with them. Now their leaders are not present to guide the party. Hence, the search is on for leadership. Every party, every aspirant from actor Kamal to Vishal and Rajini are only trying and assessing the political current. But T.T.V. Dinakaran proved in the test that he has the needed DNA of the leadership to attract the masses. The needed DNA is that the leader should have the capacity to resist the dictates of the Centre. T.T.V. Dinakaran has been perceived by the voters as a strong leader taking the lines of J. Jayalalithaa in pursuing his political course. The big design evolved to eliminate Sasikala and T.T.V. Dinakaran has been defeated by the electorates of R.K. Nagar and T.T.V. Dinakaran has emerged as a force to reckon with. Popular will has prevailed over the will of the state and Central governments.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)