Tamil Nadu poll scene: Battle for Chennai fort!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Poll politics in Tamil Nadu where two Dravidian parties have been ruling alternatively, has just begun to make its general impact on the electorate with parties like AIADMK, DMK, Congress, Third Front led by senior politician Vaiko, and BJP, among other parties have started streamlining their poll strategies for 234 seats.
The leaders of the four party alliance People’s Welfare Front have been delaying the seat-sharing talks, apparently waiting for a word from the DMDK. The bloc maintained earlier that the chief minister would be chosen by the elected representatives of PWF after the election, in line with the parliamentary democratic system.
DMK has already interviewed the candidates seeking MLA seat to contest in the poll and rumours have it that those who pay huge sums to the party would get the tickets, apart from top party leaders. Soon AIADMK would screen and interview the candidates and select them on the basis of similar conditions. Poor people obviously would not get party tickets to contest.
In a bid to thwart AIADMK’s attempt to retain power in the state, Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have decided to fight Tamil Nadu Assembly elections together. The announcement came after a Congress delegation, led by Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, on Saturday met DMK president M Karunanidhi at his residence in Chennai. Azad was accompanied by state Congress president EVKS Elangovan and the party’s Tamil Nadu in-charge Mukul Wasnik. DMK leaders MK Stalin and Kanimozhi also attended the meeting. The seat-sharing for the 235-member Assembly has not been decided yet. Fruitful talks resulted in the two former allies joining hands after a gap of three years when DMK snapped ties with Congress over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. The DMK leader had invited Congress and DMDK as part of his efforts to cobble up a strong alliance against the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK.
The election scenario in Tamil Nadu looks set for a multi-cornered contest among AIADMK, DMK-Cong combine, PMK, PWF, BJP and DMDK. DMDK was part of BJP-led NDA in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and the saffron party was hoping to retain it in its alliance for the assembly elections. The declaration by DMDK came against the background of sustained efforts by the DMK, BJP and People’s Welfare Front PWF (comprising MDMK, VCK and CPI (M) and CPI) to rope in the Vijayakanth-led party into their fold. Ridiculing speculation in the media about which alliance the DMDK would choose, he asked, “Why are you worried?” Founded in 2005, DMDK fought the 2011 Assembly elections as an ally of the ruling AIADMK, Vijayakanth winning enough seats to be the opposition leader, and later fell out with it. Explaining the background to the party decision, he said his party men were confused when TV channels owing allegiance to select political parties aired views according to their whims and fancies on the probable decision of the DMDK. The political analysts say the intentions to be an alternative to major parties and scrap freebies is good but DMDK has no wherewithal to achieve what it wants. The party has finalized its manifesto and is planning to release it in the next few weeks.
After reviving the UPA in the state by stitching an alliance with erstwhile ally , Congress, DMK is pinning hopes on Vijayakanth’s arrival, but only disappointment.
With Assembly polls expected to be held in May, CM Jayalalithaa said her party will form the government in the state for the seventh time. She added that the success of her government’s social welfare projects and schemes have helped the state improve its show on social indicators, including in the health and education sectors. She said her government had been successful in bringing about inclusive growth. She underlined the need to evolve strategies to destroy rivals’ “conspiracies” and asked her party workers to use her government’s “achievements to counter big lies” spread by the Opposition.
While Congress party and DMK have made an alliance along with some small parties to face the elections, AIADMK seems to be confident of winning without alliance with BJP which had expected the ruling party led by J. Jayalalithaa to agree for an alliance with it but as the AIAADMK neglected the BJP’s call for poll understanding, it has decided to go it alone or along with small “willing” parties if forthcoming. PM Modi had earlier described Jayalalithaa as a “very good friend” and the luncheon meeting between the two in August last year at the AIADMK supremo’s Poes Garden residence in Chennai had set off speculation that the two parties might join hands ahead of the 2016 state polls.
After initially asserting that it would contest all 234 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu, the ruling AIADMK has maintained a strategic silence on taking electoral partners while closely watching DMDK chief Vijayakanth’s talks with opposition parties. Having lost most of its 2011 allies, including actor Sarath Kumar’s AISMK, Left parties, Puthiya Tamizhagam, and DMDK, the ruling AIADMK camp maintains a stoic silence on alliance formation.
BJP had high hopes on Tamil parties floated by actors Vijayakanth and Sarath. After keeping alliance aspirants on tenterhooks, actor-turned politician Vijayakanth ha snow said his party DMDK would go it alone in the 16 May Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, belying the hopes of DMK, BJP and even the four-party bloc PWF.
Having lost both major Dravidian parties, Rajinikanth and Vijayakanth, BJP leaders in Chennai now talk about trying for a non-Dravidian government under its own leaders, which looks like a big joke at the very beginning of poll preparations.
The BJP which has made any inroads in the land of Tamils is scouting for partners to spread its wings in Tamil Nadu where it failed to make any mark in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections despite stitching a broad alliance with several regional outfits.
The ruling AIADMK, which is not facing nay anti-incumbency trend, is going to make the Aircel-Maxis deal one of their main talking points in the election campaign and project the DMK-Congress combine as a “corrupt bloc”. As a counter, DMK will try to corner the ruling party over the alleged failed ‘handling’ of the flood as well as open corruption in the state.
The AIADMK has set the tone for a bitter election campaign for the upcoming assembly polls in Tamil Nadu by raising the Aircel-Maxis issue in Parliament to target not only the Congress but its arch-rival DMK as well. The AIADMK offensive has widely been attributed to a recent decision by the DMK and Congress to forge an alliance against Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in the state elections. AIADMK repeatedly alleged the involvement of DMK leader and ex-telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti in the Aircel-Maxis deal with “deep roots” in the 2G-spectrum allocation scam. The AIADMK members had stalled proceedings in both houses of parliament and the government played ball and readily accepted the party’s demand for a discussion on the issue in Lok Sabha. “This is because the government wanted to deflect the attention from the Rohith Vemula issue and the JNU row in which they are on a back-foot,” said Tamil Nadu Congress leader SV Ramani.
Launching an attack on DMK chief M Karunanidhi and his son M K Stalin, she alleged that when the party was in power, it had “betrayed” Tamils and derailed crucial services including power sector. She cited the DMK’s “silence” on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue while being part of the UPA government at the centre
Hundreds of flex boards and banners of ‘Amma’ erected on both sides of the road from her Poes Garden residence to meeting venues in Chennai threw traffic out of gear. Social media was abuzz with photos of several gates of houses blocked by hoardings. Many people said they couldn’t open their gates or take their vehicles out. Volunteers of Arappor Iyakkam, an organisation based in Chennai, alleged that AIADMK supporters manhandled them when they tried to remove hoardings erected on the footpaths.
As it stands, only the ruling AIADMK has the possibility to form a government even with a slim majority in the assembly. DMK-Congress alliance may not be able to cut much ice with the electorate. However, an alternative alliance of PWF along with PMK, Sarath Kumar and Vijayakanth’s DMDK is quite possible. The CM issue could be settled automatically when the poll results would be in. Vaiko has hinted in an interview that he may be fighting for the top post.
With AIADMK and DMK out, Congress and BJP kept at the bay, the choice of Third Front could be an ideal judgment of people of Tamil Nadu. All known ruling parties, including BJP are corrupt. BJP is also a dangerous communal party that would deny freedoms to people. People have seen how they ruled and disappointed the masses that hoped for change. A new party or alliance alone can make the state really prestigious. Only that dispensation could provide clean governance, root out corruption, end liquor and bribery.
But will the new parties come up with proposals for a new Tamil Nadu?
Meanwhile, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh on Sunday said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) should alter its ideology after it changed its dress code and asked who gave the saffron outfit’s members the right to “certify” someone as “patriot” and “anti-national”. Khaki shorts, the trademark RSS dress for 91 years, is on its way out and making way for brown trousers as part of the organization’s endeavor to “move with the times” and demonstrate that it is “not rigid”. Singh said RSS people were demanding that “anti-national elements” from all universities be chucked out and asked, “who gave them the right to issue certificates about somebody being anti-national”. Terming the Vishnu Sahai Commission report on Muzaffarnagar riots as “surprising”, he said every person knew about the involvement of a BJP MP and MLA in spreading the conflagration. On the issue of liquor cum cricket boss Vijay Mallaya absconding abroad, evading the court on huge money laundering, Singh said, “Everyone knows, who (Modi government) allowed the liquor baron to go outside the country despite heavy debts”.