Wild speculations in Delhi and in the major state capitals. Though Dr.Manmohan Singh spoke bravely about his one-year government achievements, not many are convinced. Some surveys, of CEOs or youngsters, feel, some 80 per cent of 18-45 years age group in 10 cities are disappointed. There is wild speculation in the political circles about a Third Front emerging and thereby unseating the present cosy existence. Why the speculations? Because of the plainly non-performance of the government in crucial areas : agriculture, employment ,poverty reduction and too much pandering to the unprincipled allies.
Indian politics, in major states, is marked by regional aspirations. Also these aspirations are expressed in some imagined neglect or grievances. The first originator of these regional identities, aspirations is the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu. But today Tamil politics is marked by raw passions and very personal attacks. The language of politics in the state is a shame for all Tamils. But no one seems to care! There is fear and insecurity in the minds of people. In Chennai you cant fine one intellectual who will openly express his views. Such is the palpable tension in the air! The state Assembly doesn’t function. The Opposition often makes life miserable for the ruling party. The DMK chief doesn’t attend Assembly. The peculiarity of the Dravidian politics is that while it had now enjoyed power for some four decades, it is the dominant non-Brahmin castes that got all the concessions. The dalits have been left out. Even among the backward castes only a few castes enjoy the hegemony.
Lately, the dominant parties have become individual autocracies, dynasties and the leaders worshipped as gods! Yes, there is no difference between Tamil film thrillers and the real life political thrills! The DMK championed Tamil language, his use of flowery and empty language is now a byword. And yet English reigns, English medium schools mushroomed even in poor hamlets! Tamil literature is very superficial, compared to other Indian language literatures. The average Tamil suffers from a marked inferiority complex. The state is also over-burdened with an over supply of government servants, the state is not known for any liberal environment. This, in a state which enjoyed the best reputation for administrative acumen and also gave India some of the best leaders. Today, all this seems turned into a nicely scripted crime thriller! Yes, the film heroes, heroines and script writers had transformed themselves as deliverers of liberation. From an imagined enemy. Even now a pastime in Chennai is talk of enemies of Tamil language! Tamil politics revolves around castes and also the peculiar cocktail of language and racial frenzy. The DMK openly propagates itself as the saviour of Tamil race honour!
To think of an alternative platform in TN is unimaginable. A platform that would be a sort of modern day politics or modern day development priorities that marked not long ago in AP or Karnataka. In spite of educational advancement, TN is no match for Karnataka which is the IT capital and which sets so many development paradigm shifts. In TN, it is still emotional thrills, frenzies and also so much below-the belt hitting of opponents. In one word. TN politics is becoming uncivilized everyday. The educated urban voters don’t vote. So, it is the mass politics of a very undesirable kind. So, the quality of life in the state when compared with other states is very poor in terms of the many freedoms enjoyed by citizens under the Constitution. If you say you are a business person from Chennai, people from other states might suspect! Such is the reputation of so many crimes, frauds and cheating and only in TN we see once-much revered godmen languish in jails! Only in the state the incumbent CM faces trial for corruption in a neighbouring state.
Speculations abound in New Delhi as the UPA government completes one year. The celebrations that marked the one year survival of the 14 -party coalition was not attended by the Communists, on the plea that the minimum programme promised the UPA was not implemented in certain crucial areas. This is both true and not true. True, as the UPA catering to a diverse coalition pulls didn’t get down to government business with any clear set of beliefs. Dr.Manmohan Singh talks like a university professor, he is correct on his presentations and interpretations of his mandate given on a platter by Sonia Gandhi. He is not a Prime Minister on any clear political mandate. So no alliance partner or partners take him seriously. Nor the Congress party as the dominant partner has any clear direction. The party as others were in fact surprised by the election verdict. Hence, there was this initial mental reservations by allies like DMK which first wanted to extend outside support. The DMK matters in the Southern politics, as it is the originator of the peculiar Dravidian ideology of separatism. The history is long and survived with so many contradictions and now the DMK is the mother party of which the other splinter groups are mere survivors. So, along with the DMK, these very same small, mostly castist parties always swinged their loyalties to grab some power.
Thus, the DMK after years of anti-Hindi agitation and anti-Brahmin, anti-North propaganda first aligned with the Congress and then one fine morning saw the opportunity to align with the very same Hindutva, pro-North, pro-Brahmin and pro-Hindi party of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)! This was seen by committed Dravidian, non-Brahmin intellectuals and even by dedicated party cadre as a betrayal of a dearly held cause and a sort of an ideology. The original founder E.V.Ramasamy Naicker was a dedicated thinker and organiser. His disciple the late Annadurai, an M.A. in economics from the Madras university came out with the fantastic theory of a separate Tamil Nadu, comprising the Tamil speaking people. This powerful linguistic, racial and ethnic self-respect, self pride of the Tamil people created a frenzy and after an anti-Hindi agitation in 1965, the DMK swept to power in a once bastion of the Congress party in this state. From 1967 to this day, the state had seen so many twists and turns and the story today is one of intensive antagonism between the ruling ADMK and the Opposition DMK. The DMK is now also a powerful ally of the UPA setup.
The point is that when the DMK enjoyed power at the Centre the other splinter parties, PMK, MDMK were also sharing power. Once the DMK saw an opportunity it left the BJP and now is with the Congress led alliance.
Now, the ADMK leader Ms.Jayalalitha had shown tremendous will power to stand up to the many bullying tactics of the DMK. She had now finally surprised and shocked everybody in Delhi by defeating the DMK candidates in two Assembly by-elections, in a short period before which she was roundly defeated by the DMK led alliance.
It is no news for Indian observers that TN politics is devoid of all principles of sanity. The only driving force is the mass, popular frenzy created by some illusory Dravidian identity that is separate from the dominant pan Indian Aryan identity.
On the ground the average Tamil citizen is not bothered about this mytical ideology. The state is a byword for political corruption. The two Dravidian parties control vast resources, real estate to TV channels and cash hoards. The way electioneering is conducted in the recent by-elections clearly demonstrated the two parties now believe in money power only. Also there is no pretensions to any principles except to build up the family fortunes. For the DMK it is DMK President’s son as the heir. For the ADMK this question doesn’t arise, as the Amma, as the leader is popularly called by all, is supreme and her party enthusiasts even predict her one day occupying the seat of the Prime Minister in Delhi! So, the jitters in the political circles in Delhi as well as in Chennai as to what the next move of Amma would be. In the coming elections. The speculation is will the DMK win against her perceived invincibility? The DMK clearly ran short of all options. How many times to change sides? Will there be a Third Front? Here only wild speculations float in the country’s capital as well as in the state capital.
The scene now is quite complex and confusing. There is now talk of a Third Front. The Left spoke about it in the CPI(M) Congress. There are speculations about the TDP aligning with a Third Front. Jyoti Basu openly invited the TDP chief to come out. Mr.Sidhartha Reddy, a political insider and a perceptive commentator is speculating, rather wildly in my opinion about who would bell the cat. He points to the DMK chief Mr.M.Karunanidhi (MK) and Sharad Pawar. In politics anyone can speculate as he or she thinks fit. I know Karunanidhi as an Opposition Congress Member in the Legislative Council. As I know well the late K.Kamaraj, the great Congress leader. I also know Sharad Pawar somewhat, I know very well the minds of the Indian Communists. So, I would say this much : MK wont take the plunge. He may ditch his friends for his own ends. Sharad Pawar too might ditch his allies, he would manoeuvre the allies, he has resources and ambitions. But he would use the developments to get into the act.
May be only two leaders might take the initiative boldly on their own, rather openly. One is Mulayam Singh Yadav who is closer to the Left and has the resources and the ambitions. He doesn’t hide his antagonism to Sonia Gandhi. The other leader is the TN chief minister Ms.Jayalalitha. She is a courageous lady, she is isolated ,rather cornered by all parties and she has the guts to join unexpectedly new allies and cultivate and dominate, if need be. She is also known for her antagonism to Sonia Gandhi. If the situation develops she could take the plunge.
So, I can say The DMK options are very narrow. Its allies are outright opportunists. The suspicion is that the PMK and even the MDMK might ditch the DMK in favour of a new Third Front. Or, will the DMK itself take the first steps to along with the perceived opponents of Sonia Gandhi? Sonia Gandhi, despite her renunciation of the office of the Prime Minister, is thought to be waiting for the requisite number of MPs. Now, there is no such magical numbers in sight. The Congress has 145, BJP 138. The crucial numbers are now with the Left (63) and Mulayam Singh Yadav (38). But she also knows there is lot of reservations of a foreigner occupying the hot seat in an India with the hotheads in the Hindutva ideologies.
Though the BJP is now in the dumps, its potential to cause large scale impact is not under-estimated. Also, the Dravidian politics is highly unpredictable with the Sri Lankan LTTE perceived to be using the Indian soil still for its activities. The PM was to pay his first foreign visit to Sri Lanka. That was changed because of the pressure of the Dravidian politics which is seen as keeping its sympathies with the separatist outfit. Only just now there is this controversy about the Home Ministry’s advice to the TN CM about a potential threat to her life. So, there would be lot of tension built up before the “make” or “break” election that would decide once and for all the course of Dravidian politics in the evening of DMK chief’s last chance.
The point is that the Dravidian parties are never known for any serious historic vision. Or, long-term commitments. These men and women today have become caricatures of what they claim Dravidian great past is. Let that pass. Now, there could be all the surprises. The ADMK could surprise everybody by opting to welcoming the Congress as an ally! Why not? Any cooked up demands can be made and quickly conceded too! The Congress men in TN is quite powerless and they would simply nod with what Sonia finds comfortable. The men and women around Sonia Gandhi too have no love lost for any principles. Who knows that the ADMK chief could even concede the possibility of a coalition government in the state. This, the DMK is resisting. Till now. Who knows that once the Congress falls out with DMK. The ADMK might move forward.
Or, some unpredictable developments could take place. A Third Front idea might create some new uncertainties. One uncertain political scene that is not contemplated by any is the Bihar-type situation. Where neither the DMK or the ADMK has absolute majority.
In fact, some observers, including this writer, would very much welcome and very work towards such a situation so that the state would have a chance to change its self-destructive, negative politics that marks the state. Though TN is an advanced state economically, its social base is marked by several superstition, lack of self-confidence among the people, the very same self-respect the Dravidian leaders learnt to forego whenever power and perks are held before them. This is no self-respect for a people who thrived on empty rhetoric for so long.