By Ashima Makhija
The bipolar polity of the state of Tamil Nadu, where the Dravidian parties of AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) have fought legendary electoral battles, has come to an abrupt standstill. Since the demise of former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalitha (Amma), nobody has been able to fill the wide political vacuum in the state. Although there have been several contenders, directly or indirectly, for leadership succession, political observers agree that the top slot, of a leader with command over the people of the state, remains vacant.
The leadership void in AIADMK has led to a three-way conflict and the party has splintered into three factions. The DMK patriarch, M Karunanidhi, has also retired from politics due to his age, thereby leaving a barren political field where none of the other leaders can command the same credibility, respect or faith of the people.
Future shrouded in mist
On 27th July 2017, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated former President, Dr APJ Abdul Kamal’s memorial in Rameshwaram, where he paid his tributes to the legendary leader in his speech. He said that “The absence of Amma is greatly felt in Tamil Nadu…I feel void of Amma, she’s a leader we all remember.” The PM’s words, which made an indirect comment on the leadership void in the state, resonate with the speculations and commentary of the political analysts.
“The Congress is almost dead, and the BJP is yet to get a foothold in the state, while the Communist party is fast losing ground,” says political commentator, P Sudhangan. The three cadres of AIADMK, led by chief minister Edappadi K Palanisamy, former chief minister O Panneerselvam, and by some party leaders rallying behind jailed Jaya aide VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, do not enjoy any support of the Tamil masses. MK Stalin, DMK President, who was expected to be the frontrunner in this dreary political crisis, has failed to capitalize the situation. “In crucial ideological issues, DMK and Stalin have not been able to make a strong argument. While the intellectual world is agitated by issues including National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and Hindi imposition, DMK has been unable to mobilise opinion on these issues,” says Venkatachalapathy of the Madras Institute of Development Studies.
Another Saffron Tide?
The leadership void in Tamil Nadu, accentuated by internal feuds and factions, has presented a unique opportunity to several new political players to enter the traditionally-bipartisan arena. Actor Rajinikanth, for instance, has dropped several indications of his intention to launch his own BJP-aligned outfit. With his twitter tirade against the ruling AIADMK, Actor Kamal Hassan has become politically vocal and volatile. The Chief Minister, senior ministers and AIADMK leaders are allegedly joining issues with the actor and daring Hassan to enter politics.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, whose involvement in state affairs has risen substantially since Amma’s demise, is hawking for the right candidate and ideology to establish saffron control over the state. Although the BJP’s vote share remains a low 2.5%, the party has shown excellent performance is transforming a low vote share into a staggering majority, in the past. But in Tamil Nadu, the BJP faces a severe problem. It’s desperately trying to shed its image of being ‘the party from the North’ and is looking for a prominent local face to project as the Chief Ministerial candidate. BJP, on its part, has made overtures to Rajnikanth (senior leader Nitin Gadkari openly invited the Tamil superstar to join BJP) and is also open to any local unit merging with them, even if it’s one of the factions of the AIADMK. Sources say the party has a long-term strategy as the BJP needs to strengthen its organization first to cash in on the Modi wave at a later stage.
Politics in Tamil Nadu has always been guided by “heroic” personalities, who woo the masses and command unconditional support. None of the old or emerging parties have been able to summon such a candidate so far. So the vital question here is whether it is regional parties who will once again overpower the national parties and garner support or if it is the Shah-Modi juggernaut which will rise to subsume the state.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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