People's movement for new Politics
There is no ideological discourse in politics in recent times, writes G. Palanithurai
After the demise of J. Jayalalithaa, politics in Tamil Nadu has been undergoing a sea change. It indicates that it is moving from party politics to people politics. People have developed antipathy towards party politics as political parties are evincing keen interest only in forming electoral alliance rather than forming an alliance among political parties to find solutions to the problems of the people by exerting pressure on the government jointly. Political parties are levelling charges against each other and spending time only in blame game. By listening to the arguments of political leaders, one will have a negative feeling that our political parties have lost their relevance in the present context. On many of the critical issues of development political parties individually express their concern and solidarity but not joining together to fight against the government to find solutions to the problems. They accuse each other and indicate the degree of misdeed each one did in the past.
The political parties in the recent years have not shown any interest to launch a prolonged struggle on the serious issues faced by the people - particularly the poor. Politics has been turned into a money-spinning exercise. There has been no ideological discourse in politics in recent years. Corruption was the only subject in the political discourse in the past two decades. Politics without ethics keeps the youth away from politics. Against this backdrop, people, especially in the rural areas, mobilise themselves to fight against the state to solve many of the critical issues of development as their life and livelihood are at risk. Political parties normally do such mobilisation in the past but now they are not taking any step to mobilise people for a struggle. Instead, they organise agitations party wise on the same issues for a few hours in a day apart from issuing press statements. When people mobilise themselves, the political parties come and show their solidarity with the people who are in the struggle.
Tamil Nadu has witnessed series of people struggle. People organised themselves in Kudankulam against the establishment of the nuclear plant. It was a well-organised agitation for a long period. Second, such a mass mobilisation took place in Marina Beach for Jallikkattu. It was a mammoth congregation of people mostly youth organised made the state to respond. Many groups have been formed voluntarily and they are active in social media. They are keeping the online participation consciousness alive on many of the social issues which are critical to the development of Tamil Nadu. Youth are active in this process but without the ideological perspective. They are not identified with any political party. They raise series of issues in their day to day interactions in social media. Recently Neduvasal agitation to protect agriculture and environment from the scheme launched by the government to take methane from the agriculture lands and now Kathiramangalam people agitation against ONCG on oil exploration, held in Tamil Nadu draw the attention of public and the activists in the social media. The struggle is on for more than hundred days. A large number of youth groups are visiting and expressing their solidarity with the agitating villagers. Yet another people mobilisation takes place to oppose the opening of the state-owned liquor shops. This mobilisation has been done by the women locally and they participated in the protest forcefully and sometimes violently with anger against the state. Now the death of Anitha a student due to the implementation of NEET triggered the agitation and for which students are being mobilised. Normally, these kinds of mobilisations usually will be done by the political parties. But now they are being done by people themselves. The political parties are visiting all those places and expressed their solidarity with them. Most of the people who are in struggle expressed that they want to keep away from the political parties as they feel their cause will be diluted by giving political colour.
In these agitations, the political parties criticise each other for the sorry state of affairs in Tamil Nadu. People want solutions to those problems and not moral and oral support. Most of the agitations are for protecting nature, natural resources and livelihood opportunities. It indicates the huge environmental and ecological loss Tamil Nadu has incurred. As a result, the livelihood of the poor and farmers are at stake. Many of the agitations are taking place only in the rural areas. The above people struggle brought to light the heavy damage done to ecology and environment by exploiting the natural resources in the name of development.
In over seventy years development activities, villages have been damaged and villagers have been marginalised. They are disempowered. Rural Tamil Nadu faces serious ecological and environmental crises. Unfortunately, the mainstream political parties could not understand the critical issues of development properly. The present political parties do not have the intellectual background to understand the implications of these agitations and the issues confronted by the state. But in the social media conversations take place among the youth on various issues affecting the state Tamil Nadu. People want an alternative approach to the present development model. In the same way, the political process has to be changed from party politics to people politics. The people politics has to revolve around green politics. Nobody has got a clue to take it forward. The political parties wait for elections. People are expecting a totally a new way of political process and an alternative approach to development. That is the need of the hour today in Tamil Nadu.
(The author is a Professor and Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, Department of Political Science and Development Administration, Gandhigram Rural Institute - Deemed University, Gandhigram. The views expressed are strictly personal.)