The face of Tamil Nadu politics changed when M G Ramachandran broke away from the parent DMK to float the AIADMK. Barring two stints of President’s rule, the two ‘Dravidian majors’ have had a monopoly of the State’s electoral politics and political administration.
The emergence of sub-regional, caste-based parties did not change the situation, nor did the rise of the BJP as the ‘national alternative’ to the Congress rival. If anything, Elections-2016 to the State Assembly, re-established the supremacy of the two Dravidian majors.
Today, the physical exit of the charismatic Jayalalithaa has been followed by the political semi-retirement of the calculative Muthuvel Karunanidhi. With Jaya’s exit, the AIADMK confirmed O Panneerselvam, (OPS) as chief minister.
On its own, the party has chosen Jaya’s live-in confidante Sasikala V K, as party General Secretary. There are also rumours that Sasikala might take over as chief minister at a time of her choosing.
In the DMK camp, physical faculties have failed nonagenarian Karunanidhi, who has been bound to a wheelchair since 2009 but still mentally active. This and two episodes of hospitalisation meant that the leader and the party had to look for change. Heir-apparent, M K Stalin, party treasurer was ready.
Stalin’s anointment as ‘executive president’ of the party after amending the DMK constitution at a general council meeting has ensured as much. Already, Stalin is the Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, where he has acted with greater civility than the rival Dravidian leaders.
Fresh faces, new hopes
The New Year has thus begun with fresh faces at the helm. It has kindled fresh hopes, too. For the ruling AIADMK, OPS remains accessible to officials and also accessed people at the height of post-Vardah cyclone relief works. Though he seems shy to meet up with the media, many of his cabinet colleagues have been talking to the people through the media.
For her reasons, Sasikala has also been bending backward to meet up with, and woo, party secondliners.
On the DMK side, Stalin had for long shied away from official meetings with business leaders, investors and even the local media, first as Chennai Mayor; he could not shed the image when he became Local Administration Minister.
This time round, Stalin seems to be more communicative, accessible and approachable. He has acquired such an image from his Namakku Naame’people-access programme during the run-up to Elections-2016. Though the DMK could not return to power, both Stalin’s election campaign, overall conduct of the DMK poll management and the reintroduction of political civility to the inter-Dravidian relationship are well appreciated, even by his critics.
There is no denying the fact even at this late stage that the Dravidian politics of the state over the past five decades had been punctuated by the personal animosity of rival leaders. Unfortunately, for a developed, educated and enlightened state, their misgivings against each other had come to influence their decisions on policy matters. Alternatively, they have opposed whatever idea, concept or programme promoted by the party in power, whenever they were not on the Treasury Bench.
In turn, this has frustrated governments and investors. After all, investments require time to mature into industries, creating jobs and family incomes and revenue for the exchequer. This has a spiraling effect of the active kind, just as the negativity of competitive politics and policy-making has had in the opposite direction.
If the state did scale new heights in every socio-economic sector, it was despite the political hurdles that the ruling parties had placed on the way. With greater cooperation, cohesion and continuity on the policy front, Tamil Nadu can excel itself and even those states that have been ahead of it.
Change-of-faces at the helm of parties and the government has now opened up the possibilities for both sides to change the unsavoury stances of the past decades and script a new beginning for the overall, comprehensive betterment of Tamil Nadu as a whole.