India: Tamil Nadu politicians launch “People’s Welfare Front” to take on AIADMK and DMK!
-Dr. Abdul ruff
Preparations and campaign for the Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry regional legislative elections of May 2016 are on. As usual the ruling AIADMK (All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and opposition DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam parties continue to dominate the Tamil politics.
However, there is move by a few parties including the communists and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK).to float a third front to take on both AIADMK and DMK and save Tamil Nadu from rampant corruption and other crimes the state has been suffering form for years. They have already in October 2015 formed a Third Front, Makkal Nala Koottu Iyakkam (மக்கள் நல கூட்டு இயக்கம்/ People’s Welfare Front (PWF).
Almost a month after four political parties in Tamil Nadu – Vaiko’s MDMK, Dalit leader Thol Thirumavalavan’s VCK, CPI and CPM — finalized a plan to form a third front called the People’s Welfare Front (PWF), the team has released a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) confirming the electoral alliance which will oppose the two leading Dravidian parties — the ruling AIADMK and the opposition DMK.
So far, all these minor parties have contested only as part of alliances led by either AIADMK or DMK and they used to get a few seats to contest elections for parliament or state assembly but they always worked for these parties as their prime responsibility.
Now they have realized their fault line and want to fight poll on their own. The shift by PWF member parties to stand together leaving the major alliances gains importance as both the major parties would fair badly without the votes of and gathered by these fringe parties.
The lead for the third front PWF has been taken by communist parties CPM and CPI that have significant presence in three states are abandoning their longstanding alliance with the two major corrupt parties in Tamil Nadu, amid rising disillusionment and anger with these parties. Both AIADMK and DMK do not take these parties seriously enough and also treat them as irrelevant ones. Their program and the character of their leading personnel make clear, however, that they may not provide any genuine governance and would complete their term leaving the genuine concerns of ordinary masses left untouched. It is worthwhile to recall how the communists mismanaged the governance in West Bengal and people have to replace them with Trinamool Congress party of Mamata Banerjee.
A November 25 PWF statement declares, ‘‘we will face the election on the basis of our minimum program. We have published a minimum program that is agreeable to all the parties in the coalition. Therefore we avoided some issues including separate Tamil Eelam [in Sri Lanka], and opposition to Kudankulam nuclear power plant.
The PWF was formed amid a broad re-orientation of Indian foreign policy, more closely aligning New Delhi with Washington’s strategic needs. (This week, the Indian government opened the country’s ports and air force bases to the US military). The PWF has chosen MDMK leader V. Gopalasamy, (Vaiko) a pro-US politician and admirer of Obama, as the leader coordinating the activities of the different PWF parties.
During a mass rally organised by PWF at Trichy in central Tamil Nadu recently, Vaiko had recited a few lines of the anti-liquor song of Kovan, who was arrested under sedition charge for his lyrics against Jayalalithaa, and dared the police to arrest him. However, Vaiko will struggle to regain the confidence of the people for being an opposition leader without any consistent stand. He had abandoned his supporters several times to switch camps from DMK to AIADMK to the NDA during elections.
The PWF camp is now holding talks with actor turned politician Vijayakanth’s DMDK and GK Vasan’s TMC. Recently, when Vaiko and Vijayakanth were on the same flight from Madurai to Chennai, it triggered rumours of a possible alliance but Vijayakanth continues to shy away from a decision.
For smaller parties in Tamil Nadu, the 2016 election is going to be crucial as the very existence of these parties may be challenged if they are wiped out of the state assembly. The present vote share of PWF would roughly be 10 per cent – that’s why Vijayakanth is important – he may even emerge as the CM candidate of the third front if talks go well. To make this happen, he has to quit the NDA alliance and no longer be seen as a Narendra Modi loyalist.
Indian left parties, having burnt their fingers by siding the then ruling Congress government, in order to win a Speaker post for a CPM MP as a short term gain, are not popular among the masses as they have deviated from popular causes and begun thinking about promoting corporate bosses obviously for sumptuous party funds, and thus are hostile to popular opposition to the Kudankulam nuclear plant and silent on the position of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. The Kudankulam nuclear power plant, sponsored by Russia, is located in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. Construction began in 2002 and continued after the 2004 Indian general election, which brought to power the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which the CPI and CPM joined. Communist cadres are confused over the party’s alliance with Congress.
Thousands of people from hundreds of villages protested against the nuclear project, fearing pollution and fallout from the nuclear plant. Already there was a minor blast at the plant. This reflected deep and legitimate distrust of such projects among the Indian people, after the deadly 1984 industrial disaster at the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal and Japan’s Fukushima terror plant crash, killing many humans. The UPA government as well as Jayalalithaa government suppressed the popular protests, however, as they viewed the plant as the only way to promise transnational corporations reliable electricity and thus to bring foreign investors to India. Russia and IMF continue to play havoc with Indian lives.
On the question of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority, the communist leaders defend the alignment of Indian MNCs with USA and Europe. Indian corporate lords serve the foreign transnational for more profits.
The Indian ruling class and left parties had long exploited popular sympathy in Tamil Nadu for the oppressed Tamils in Sri Lanka, arming Tamil nationalist groups in Sri Lanka whenever the Indian government wanted to pressure the Sri Lankan government in Colombo.
Communists, like DMK and AIADMk, have no special sympathy for Tamils as they want their votes to help the corporate lords who fund their electioneering. The Tamil community, more than the LTTE, were massacred by the Sri Lankan government of Rajapaksha with the support of the Obama government in 2009. In the final stage of the war on Tamils, more than 40,000 Tamils were killed, and tens of thousands of people displaced and interned.
Sri Lankan government is yet to punish the criminals for their crimes against Tamils. The government in Colombo is staffed by military and political officials who played leading roles in the bloody final offensive against the LTTE. It appears Sirisena government that took office in January 2015 is designed to shift Sri Lanka’s economic and strategic orientation away from China and towards India and the USA.
Indian communist parties seem to have abandoned even their cynical, tactically-motivated criticisms of the Sri Lankan government’s oppression of the Tamil masses. The CPI and CPM played a key role in the opening of India to foreign capital by the Congress starting in 1991. Having supervised this process in 3 states of India that they governed, Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal, and blocked opposition by common masses to pro-business measures elsewhere, they have emerged as representatives of a constituency of corporate lords and affluent middle class elements hostile to the common people.
Ever since the defeat of the Congress party in the 1967 state elections in Tamil Nadu, amid a wave of popular strikes and protests, the Indian leftists supported Dravidian nationalist parties—the DMK and later the AIADMK, a DMK split-off—in power in Tamil Nadu. For decades, the CPI and CPM worked to subordinate the common people to the DMK and then the AIADMK, hailing the one and then the other as “secular” parties with a “pro-people” agenda.
Since 1991, the DMK and the AIADMK have implemented free-market policies and opened cheap-labor special economic zones for transnational corporations. In 2003, a leftists backed AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu sacked nearly 200,000 striking public sector workers with the support of a BJP-led government in New Delhi, and implemented a draconian anti-worker ‘essential services’ law in 2003, using mass firings and mass arrests. Amid the collapse of the Congress party at the national level, the Indian communists suffered a debacle in the 2014 parliamentary election, losing support in Kerala, Tripura, and West Bengal and across India.
The CPM, as a result of its pursuit of what it has itself described as “pro-investor” policies in West Bengal and support for the big business UPA government in New Delhi, has suffered a series of electoral debacles since 2009. In 2011 it fell from power in West Bengal, after 34 years of leading the state’s government and in the 2014 national elections it won just two of West Bengal’s 42 seats.
The Congress, which over the past quarter-century has spearheaded the capitalist drive to transform India into a sweatshop for global capitalism and a junior partner of US monopoly imperialism, is in unprecedented crisis. The Congress has been eliminated as a major player in large parts of India and failed to win enough seats to even be recognized as the Official Opposition in the 2014 national election.
Now Congress and communist parties are in talks for collaboration. According to press reports, the leadership of the West Bengal Congress wrote to Sonia Gandhi, the national Congress Party president, at the end of last year, seeking authorization to form an electoral alliance with the CPM and its Left Front. But no authorization has been forthcoming. It seems the communists are now seeking to forge an alliance with their rival the Congress party in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. That the CPM leadership has been considering an electoral alliance with the Congress is symptomatic of its deep crisis and alienation from and hostility toward India’s poor and common masses. However, the CPM general secretary Sitaram said the party’s stance is in accordance with the political line of its 21st Congress held last year, which declared that “The main direction of our attack should be against the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) when it is in power but this cannot mean having an electoral understanding with the Congress.”
Both Congress and CPM want to remove the Mamata government in West Bengal and recapture the state which is now beyond their capacity. But Communist-Congress alliance would cost the Left front influence and potentially assembly seats. A CPM-Congress electoral alliance in West Bengal would blunt the edge of its attack on the UDF and enable the BJP to tout itself as the “real opposition” to the Congress in Kerala.
To this day, the communists promote the Congress as a “secular” bulwark against the Hindu supremacist BJP, though they know Congress party is also a major Hindutva party.
Truly, Indians are fed up with flowery and emotional speeches of their politicians, their bogus promises. The Tamils now want the politicians to work sincerely and honestly for their future.
For smaller parties in Tamil Nadu, the 2016 election is going to be crucial as the very existence of these parties may be challenged if they are wiped out of the state assembly. Hence they would be very serious in order to make their influence felt in other states. .
Notwithstanding all negative features it embodies, the emergence of third front in Tamil Nadu has significance for the state politics as well as national scenario. Since every state allows two major parties to win polls and make governments to loot the nation’s resources by powerful networks and mafias, the emergence of a third strong party or a front of remaining parties would go a long way in streamlining and cleansing the corrupt Indian politics.
The much anticipated formation of a third front, amidst uncertainties and discussions for over six months, has not only shattered the DMK’s dreams of a larger alliance in the assembly elections against AIADMK, but also makes the ruling party ‘happy’ as its leaders believe that a multi-cornered election would only help them to retain power.
CPM leader and a former JNU scholar Karat Prakash has made a valid point that the third front in Tamil Nadu will have a deep impact on the future politics of the state and, maybe, for Indian politics.
Even if the new formation wins the poll in Tamil Nadu, the issue remains if these leaders would genuinely work for the uplift of ordinary masses or do exactly what the DMK and ADMK and Congress and BJP have done everything to promote capitalists.
A successful campaign in Tamil Nadu by the third front could have far reaching ramifications for Indian nation.