Millennium Post

Need a new narrative in Tamil polity

After the demise of Jayalalithaa, the state is in desperate need of a new leader with vision, writes G. Palanithurai.

In Tamil Nadu, what we are witnessing after the demise of J. Jayalalitha and the disappearance of M. Karunanidhi from the public space is a leadership crisis. It is felt increasingly in the state's political space as controversy hovers around the death of J. Jayalalitha and the imprisonment of V.K. Sasikala based on the judgment of the Supreme Court. How long they lamented J. Jayalalitha's death? Even the main opposition party is involved in the discourse. It is a pity that Tamil Nadu politics has not moved an inch beyond the old narratives.

There is no new narrative in Tamil Nadu politics based on the real issues facing the state. Tamil society faces a plethora of problems--drought, farmer suicides, inadequate water supply, illegal sand quarrying, poor quality of primary and higher education, stagnated industries, continuing law and order problems, regularised corruption in every walk of life, depletion of natural resources, loss of ecology, rising unemployment and the death of fisher folk at the hands of the Sri Lankan Navy. All these issues are deeply rooted, and it is not so easy to find a readymade solution. Despite the seriousness, the issues have not drawn the attention of politicians. No doubt, Tamil Nadu is one of the fast developing and urbanising states in India. The rural-urban divide in terms of population is 50:50 in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu politics has always been a trendsetter for other states. K. Kamaraj had laid the foundation for robust economic development through building the basics for agriculture development and industrialisation. In the same way, M. Karunanidhi had laid the groundwork for administering social development even before the concept gained currency in other states. M.G. Ramachandran set a new trend in helping the poor through direct transfer of benefits. By following the tradition of M.G.R., J. Jayalalitha had implemented pro-poor, pro-women, and pro-children schemes which became a model for other states. It is one of the progressive states in India despite certain negative trends like continuing and soaring corrupt practices in public sphere and authoritarianism in politics. The practice of democracy remains a challenge, and yet the state has developed significantly. Till date, Tamil Nadu is known for its performance in taking care of the poor. There is no distress migration in Tamil Nadu. For this, whole credit goes to our past leaders who relentlessly pursued pro-poor policies.

K. Kamaraj and M. Karunanidhi, M.G. Ramachandran, and J. Jayalalitha had distinct leadership qualities and styles, and they made indelible marks in governance, administration, and process of development in Tamil Nadu. E.V. Ramasamy Periyar and C.N. Annadurai made a significant contribution in changing the discourses of politics through their ideas in Tamil Nadu politics. Unfortunately, the present day leadership has not lent anything substantial to create a new narrative after the demise of J. Jayalalitha. Had M. Karunanidhi been active today he would have taken politics to a different level. Even at the age of 92, he was up to date, and he has the perspective to look at issues. It is unfortunate now we do not have such qualities among the leaders of the parties now.

A few political parties talk about the real issues, but they possess a weak voice which has not drawn the attention of the media. As a result, the Tamil media both electronic and print narrating and spinning stories on an around the death of J.Jayalalitha. It seems that some forces are constantly working to ensure that the real issues do not come into the public space for discourse. In the local press today, non-issues are seemingly up for debate. Public, youth, students, opinion makers are in search of alternative politics and new leaders with a different style. Jallikattu and Neduvasal agitations have demonstrated the loss of credibility on the part of the political parties and their leaders among the public.

People have started feeling that there is no credible leader to lead Tamil society. People have lost hope in the political parties as they perpetuate the corporate style of functioning. Political parties barring a few smaller entities have no real concern on the issues but even their activities always around formations of an alliance to win a few seats in the election and to form a government if it is a major political front. It is a total vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics. What is going on in Tamil Nadu at present is only a political show, and people are witnessing it as a cinema rather than a political discourse. Where is my leader?

(The views expressed are strictly personal.)
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