Friday, March 14, 2008

Wrote this one last week….two newspapers refused to take it!!!!!

Dr. S. Ramadoss and his Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) have landed in an unenviable position. The party’s exit from the DMK-led alliance is more or less certain. And it is also certain that the PMK will be left with no other option than agreeing to an alliance with Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK as and when elections are held for the next Lok Sabha. It is also a fact that Ramadoss will end up cringing before the AIADMK chief and will not even be able to decide who hi party’s candidates will be.

It is also likely that the PMK chief’s son and Union Health Minister, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss is asked to quit his position soon. The Minister, without doubt, is isolated even otherwise in the context of his war against Dr. Venugopal at the All India Institute for Medical Sciences. And if he is still allowed to continue as Minister for Health, it is because the DMK patriarch, M.Karunanidhi had not trained his guns against him.

Be that as it may. The present state of isolation of the PMK is rooted in the senior Ramadoss’s penchant to a brand of politics that Charan Singh devised in the Sixties in Uttar Pradesh. The strategy had two distinct aspects. One of it was to carve out an exclusive socio-political clout by way of consolidating on a Jat exclusive socio-political base; and thereafter to use this clout and the electoral gains from out of it to negotiate an alliance in which he would arrive as the leader. That was how, Charan Singh, who began as a Congress MLA ended up as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in April 1967 by heading the Samyukta Vidayak Dal coalition that was essentially a formation inspired by the anti-Congress project that Ram Manohar Lohia envisaged.

Ramadoss too followed the same path. In the late Eighties, he managed to capture the imagination of the vanniar community, until then categorized as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who had constituted the DMK’s social base from 1957, by setting out on an agitation demanding to them the status of Most Backward Classes (MBCs). The community constituted the dominant intermediate caste in the Northern districts of Tamil Nadu and despite its clout, both in terms of its muscle that its members wielded against the Dalits in the region and financial by way of investing in road transport and other such sectors, perceived that a MBC status will help its members land up in the bureaucracy.

Ramadoss’s agitation thus gathered strength and the DMK lost a substantial chunk of its vanniar support base to the PMK that was set up later. The agitation, violent in its form, was carried out by the vanniar sangam and the PMK as a party evolved out of it. This was the first stage. And it was perceived, by almost everyone in general and Karunanidhi in particular, that Dr. Ramadoss will not and cannot align with the AIADMK. This, after all, was how Charan Singh too was perceived by the anti-Congress formations in Uttar Pradesh. The fact is Charan Singh was not a prisoner of such ideological purity or steadfastness and he negotiated an alliance with Indira Gandhi in just a couple of years after April 1967.

Ramadoss too baffled everyone in 1998 by entering into an alliance with the AIADMK for the general election then and ensured a berth for his party’s Dalit Ezhilmalai in the Atal Behari Vajpayee cabinet. The consolidation of the vanniar community behind him was total by then and Ramadoss could claim the credit for the community being listed as MBCs. Ramadoss shifted to the DMK-led front in 1999 and had his men in the Union Cabinet once again and the iron grip that he had on his party helped him negotiate civil and other contracts for himself from the departments under the Central Government. His resources shored up and in May 2004, the PMK leader gave up all pretensions to make his son a Union Minister.

The comparison with Charan Singh will not be complete without mentioning that Ramadoss moved back into the Jayalalitha camp in May 2001 when elections to the Tamil Nadu assembly was held. And the deal was based on an understanding that either himself or his son will be given the Chief Minister’s job in Pondichery. To his dismay, the PMK lost miserably in Pondichery (even while the ADMK, its ally, won most seats it contested) and Ramadoss’s dream of ruling a State, even if it was as small as Pondichery, did not materialize. And Jayalalitha simply shoed him out of her ruling alliance in Tamil Nadu and the PMK chief returned to the DMK fold by May 2004.

The fact is in all these while, the consolidation of the vanniar community behind the PMK too began to give way and Ramadoss suffered the worst shock when film-star turned politico, Vijaykanth, won the Vridhachalam assembly constituency (deep inside the vanniar heartland) and the DMDK, his new party, secured substantial votes in the May 2006 assembly elections. The DMDK secured as much as 8 per cent votes across the State and its candidates in the Northern districts (considered Ramadoss’s fief) did better than the others from the party.

The point is Vijaykanth has shocked political observers and players by ensuring that his appeal went beyond caste concerns and the single largest loser is Ramadoss and his PMK. His radical positions in the past few months, seeming to take up the cause of the farmers may irritate Karunanidhi; but with only 17 MLAs in the assembly, he is in no position to pull down the Government. And the masses, whom Ramadoss claims to represent, seem to have seen through the PMK’s game. The message that he is simply desperate has percolated down and that makes his position today unenviable.

This, incidentally, happened to Charan Singh too in his own life time. And by the time his son, Ajit Singh inherited the Lok Dal, it was a pale shadow of what it used to be. The point is that the strategy to consolidate oneself on the margins and negotiate a space in the centre thereafter and achieving that by displaying a certain innocence of ideology may help a party and its leader to succeed momentarily. It cannot be sustained because the masses that constitute the muscle also develop contempt to those to whom political activity is a means to self preservation.

Ramadoss, now, has the following options. To swallow all his words and mend fences with Karunanidhi and ask his 17 MLAs to vote for the alliance’s nominees in the Rajya Sabha polls. Or, assure Jayalalitha of support and that will not mean anything because the AIADMK-MDMK combine is far too short of numbers to send two of its candidates to the Rajya Sabha even if the 17 PMK MLAs vote with them. Charting an independent course now will mean end of the road for him and his party and Karunanidhi will ensure that Manmohan Singh drops Anbumani from the cabinet!


Blogger Nandhu said...

i suppose the papers didnt take this because of its prediction that anbumani will be thrown out. or was it because it tells the story as it is.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the write up which was rejected by the newspaper. Are we trying to essentialize and freeze Indian political processes by making such wild comparision (between Charan Singh and Ramdoss) which are temporally/spatially separated? Should we not pay attention to the contexual understanding of political processes which are contingent of number of factors? An awareness of similarity of two different process is one thing but taking this as yardstick to compare them is far fetched. Their locations are different and the similarity you perceive should also account for the causation for such similarity. This causation may not be similar. At the end of the day I think it is causation which matters than the similarity which you seem to be obsessed with.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

M.K. is a paper tiger and he never dared to taint his guns against PMK founder leader Ramadoss.
Beyond that, M.K. has no moral holding to question Ramadoss.
Hence in anyevent he couldn't act to bring down Anbumani.

7:39 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home