Monday, May 15, 2006

This is how I look at the poll results from Tamil Nadu!


V.Krishna Ananth

The outcome of the last round of assembly elections in five States were more or less on expected lines. The Left Front was poised to retain power in West Bengal Bengal and also wrest Kerala given the state of the Congress. In Assam, meanwhile, the Congress seemed to have retained power thanks to the crisis in the Asom Gana Parishad. In Pondicherry, Chief Minister, Rangasamy, by endearing himself to the people with his simple lifestyle had earned himself and to the Congress party yet another term.

The verdict from Tamil Nadu, however, marks a significant departure from the political trajectory of the State. It may be true that Tamil Nadu has had a minority-led Government in the past. After the first general elections in 1951-52, the Congress party, fell short of a majority in the Madras State Assembly. Jawaharlal Nehru’s Congress had won just 150 seats in the 375 member Madras Legislative Assembly then. And yet, the Congress formed its Government with C.Rajagopalachari as Chief Minister. Unlike in the present instance, Rajaji did not have letters of support from smaller parties. It is another matter that he managed a majority within months by effecting defections.

It is, however, important to place on record in this context that the Madras State, then, included large tracts of Andhra, Kerala and the Mysore region. And this meant that the CPI (undivided then) won 62 assembly seats. All this changed after the linguistic reorganization of States and after the formation of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, the CPI’s presence in the Madras Assembly came down to just four seats in 1957. The Congress, led by K.Kamaraj by that time, secured 151 seats in the 205 member Assembly.

The point is that Tamil Nadu had been under a minority Government earlier too. In any case, it will be incorrect to describe the M.Karunanidhi Government, sworn in on May 14, 2006, that way. Though the DMK’s strength in the 234 member State Assembly is only 96, Karunanidhi had obtained letters of support from his pre-poll allies and with a combined strength of 163 MLAs in the House, the Government enjoys a majority in both the technical and moral sense.

The significance of the poll outcome from Tamil Nadu is at another plane and will have to be located in the increasing fragmentation of the polity on caste lines. And this is bound to reduce the importance of both the DMK and the AIADMK in the State’s political mosaic. In other words, there is no way that these two parties can ignore such formations as the PMK, the Left parties and the DPI. At another level, the poll results have also revealed the potential for the emergence of the Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam (DMDK), founded and headed by Vijaykanth as a force in the long run.

And these two tendencies could unfold, in the coming years, into a political culture that will be marked by a conflict between forces that will, on the one hand, try hard to sharpen the caste divide by adopting an exclusionary political agenda and on the other an attempt by Vijaykanth to reinvent a pan-Tamil agenda. And in the event, it is possible that he manages to gather such platforms as the Congress and the Left parties to his side.
In specific terms, while such platforms as the PMK, DPI and other smaller groups will try hard to construct their own exclusive caste based political support base, the DMDK seems to have the potential to cut across caste loyalties in the same way M.G.Ramachandran had achieved during the decade after 1977. It may be true that such a reversal may be too much to presume and that too at a time when the idea of caste is getting reiterated in all walks of life and more so in politics across the country, there is indeed a basis to see this happening given the large proportion of votes polled by the DMDK candidates in this election.

The point is that Vijaykanth began his political adventure without any of the advantages that such outfits like the PMK or the DPI had when the entered the poll scene. The PMK’s arrival in 1989 was preceded by a substantive consolidation of the Vanniya community through the agitation demanding MBC status to the community, the DPI symbolizes the Dalit assertion. These two parties, incidentally, are restricted to the Northern districts in Tamil Nadu and this also happens to be the traditional stronghold of the DMK.

The fact that Vijaykanth managed an emphatic win from Vridachalam against the PMK (right there in the Northern region of the State), his party nominees had crossed the 10 per cent mark in several constituencies in the region. This is certainly no mean an achievement for a party that was floated only months before the polls and without having the luxury of representing any particular caste group. It clearly shows promise. Interestingly, the Northern region is from where the DMK had established itself as a force, winning 5 out of the 7 Lok Sabha seats from this region in 1962 before it captured power in the State in 1967.

The DMDK has done well in the other regions too. Even in the Southern region, where the polarization between the Backward Caste Thevar community and the Dalits is complete, the DMDK nominees had crossed the 10 per cent mark in at least a dozen constituencies, in most other places, the DMDK had tilted the balance against the AIADMK. This, in a context where the AIADMK had emerged strong based on the unflinching support to the party from the dominant Mukkulathor community is not a mean achievement. The fact that the DMDK could overwhelm Vaiko in this region is also important.

Similarly, in the Coimbatore region, where the AIADMK had virtually swept the polls winning 13 out of 14 constituencies, the DMDK had secured at least 10,000 votes in all the segments.

All this suggest the potential for a new political culture in Tamil Nadu. This, however, will depend on the extent to which the DMK-led government manages to deliver its promises. The DMK leader has promised a lot. And this is where Vijaykanth could place his hopes. His support base, as it is, cuts across caste loyalties and consists predominantly of the generation that has matured, in the political sense, in the post-MGR era in Tamil Nadu.
(EOM)

2 Comments:

Blogger ராம்கி said...

I saw this article today only.. A sincere attempt..

9:43 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

A slightly updated version of this was published in Economic Times, Saurday, May 20, 2006

9:38 PM  

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