Is Tamil Nadu politics getting ready for a generational shift?

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October 27, 2016

Chennai: In recent years, Tamil Nadu—a two-party state—has been wrestling with the idea of an alternative political force.

AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa has been undergoing treatment in Apollo hospital since 22 September. Photo: AFP

October 27, 2016

Chennai: In recent years, Tamil Nadu—a two-party state—has been wrestling with the idea of an alternative political force.

AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa has been undergoing treatment in Apollo hospital since 22 September. Photo: AFP

Chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s hospitalization for an undisclosed condition and the frail condition of her principal rival, M. Karunanidhi, have once again revived the question of the future political course of the state.

Jayalalithaa was acquitted in the disproportionate assets` case by the Karnataka High Court on May 11, 2015. We take you back to September 27, 2014, when she arrived to attend a special court in Bangalore where she was convicted in the same case on September 27, 2014, and the reactions to the verdict in Tamil Nadu.

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo Jayalalithaa has been undergoing treatment in hospital since 22 September, where she has been visited by all major politicians from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah.

Though these are dubbed “courtesy visits”, analysts see their repercussions in the changing political equation.

Gandhi’s surprise visit on 7 October raised many questions, with some observers saying it could be a major step in re-establishing the Congress in Tamil Nadu where it has been out of power for nearly half a century.

Also, it could have a telling impact on the party’s relationship with its ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

“May be they (Congress) are trying to put a check on us,” said a senior DMK leader.

The Congress has been deeply unhappy over seat sharing in upcoming local body polls where the DMK has retained most of the seats to be contested. “Rahul’s visit is definitely a pre-emptive measure to be ahead of the BJP,” said a senior Congress leader, who requested anonymity.

The Congress leader added that the party wants to keep both the Dravidian parties at an equal distance—“though it’s a double-edged sword and would be a tightrope walk for the Congress”.

“Even before the 2016 assembly election, the ground was prepared for a new political force in Tamil Nadu. However, that did not happen and the existing two players demonstrated their strong hold on the electorate,” said Sumanth Raman, a Chennai-based political analyst.

Some observers say Dravidian politics in its traditional mould seems to have run its course. This means the BJP would be exploring all possible strategies to breach the Dravidian political fortress in a major state where it has no legislators.

However, unlike Uttar Pradesh or Bihar or Gujarat, it is not easy to play majority versus minority politics in Tamil Nadu. “It is not an easy task to dismantle an established Dravidian political ethos and public culture. It would require a proper indoctrination of Hindu nationalist agendas, related discourses and institutions to communalize politics in the state like they successfully did in north India and elsewhere,” said Karthikeyan Damodaran, a scholar in South Asian studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Another problem for BJP is the lack of a charismatic local leader. Also, smaller parties like the Pattali Makkal Katchi, Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Puthiya Tamilagam “definitely stand as stumbling blocks for the BJP to make any inroads into established vote banks among major castes”, he added.


Courtesy: LiveMint

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