The DMK and Tamil Nadu’s political future enter into a new era

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CHENNAI: As the patriarch of Tamil Nadu politics was laid to rest, the uncertainty over the DMK’s future and the state continues as the AIADMK continues to rule despite disputing factions within.

 

Two titans of not just Tamil Nadu and Dravidian politics, but of national politics have been laid to rest within a span of two years. Having spent the last few decades feuding and trading power every five years; the faces of the two main parties in the state are no more. It’s the end of an era. As a sense of peace comes over the party following the 2 weeks of Karunanidhi’s hospital stay, now comes the time for the party and cadre to look towards the future.

Without Karunanidhi, the DMK would not be the party it is today. With scandal and corruption in tow, the party has been through it all. The DMK of the past, when Karunanidhi was a rising star in the party, had a clear ideology; a demand for language rights and its equal status. Ramu Manivannan, professor, Department of Politics & Public Administration, University of Madras, in an op-ed for Moneycontrol, writes broadly on the future of Dravidian politics – “CN Annadurai and his brigade of young warriors challenged the status quo and redefined the course and contents of Dravidian politics. Karunanidhi leaves behind a mixed basket. On one hand is the secure leadership baton change within the DMK”.

The AIADMK, which was in power at the time of Jayalalithaa’s death, was struggling to find a leader. What followed was a bitter power struggle in the immediate aftermath of the former chief minister’s and party leader’s death. As warring factions continue to exist within the AIADMK, it has struggled to govern as effectively as its matriarch. Constant infighting has rendered it weak in the year that has followed and the party remains vulnerable come 2019.

With regards to the DMK, the burden now falls on the shoulders of his son MK Stalin. As he lay his father to rest at the Marina beach in Chennai, a symbolic indication of the responsibility being passed on to him was when the national flag draped around Karunanidhi’s body as a state honour was removed and handed over to Stalin. He has been the Chief Minister in waiting but always maintained that his father was the leader of the party as the golden jubilee of Karunanidhi’s achievement was marked recently.

The split in responsibilities is between Stalin and Kanimozhi. While the former has consolidated his leadership and position within the party, the latter is the face of the party in New Delhi. Karunanidhi did a relatively good job in keeping his children in check. However, there is a possibility of the rivalry between Stalin and Alagiri, who has been expelled in 2014 from the party, to resurface.

Alagiri used to be the face of the party in Madurai for many years. He did not shy away from criticising the party after the party lost the RK Nagar bypolls in December saying in part, “Not just RK Nagar by-poll, the DMK will not henceforth win in any election”. He said as long as Stalin is at the helm, the party cannot compete. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author, in a column for The Asian Age, speaks to the future of politics in the state – “Since Jayalalithaa’s passing, governance in Tamil Nadu has been overshadowed by rivalry between two faceless AIADMK political leaders with little but contrasting initials (EPS and OPS) as their hallmark”.

Under Karunanidhi, the DMK mainly aligned itself with a centre left coalition. It remained a party of secularism and social justice to a large extent. He has kept the BJP and Narendra Modi at arm’s length. The power centre for the state is up for grabs. What might throw a monkey in the wrench is the entry of two legendary film stars who paid their respects to Karunanidhi – Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth.

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