July 07 2020
A year marked by Stalin’s ascent and consolidation of power by EPS
31 December 2018

Karunanidhi’s son has big shoes to fill; polls acid test for AIADMK

2018 saw two key developments in the political landscape in Tamil Nadu — the ascendance of M.K. Stalin as DMK president following the death of his father and Dravidian stalwart M. Karunanidhi, and Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami consolidating his position in his party and in the ruling AIADMK government.

The New Year promises to be interesting on the political front, with bypolls for 20 Assembly constituencies and the Lok Sabha election lined up during the first half of the year. There is a high probability of the long-pending local body polls being conducted as well.

The most notable event of the year was the election of DMK working president M.K. Stalin, who has spent almost 50 years in politics, as the party president on August 29. He has big shoes to fill during the election year, and could expect whole-hearted support from the Congress, especially after his nomination of Rahul Gandhi as the Opposition’s Prime Ministerial candidate. His proposal evoked mixed reaction among the anti-BJP parties, including alliance partners, who wanted to wait for the outcome of the Lok Sabha election.

While the DMK was unable to poach from the AIADMK despite the absence of long-time leader Jayalalithaa, the Opposition party got former AIADMK Minister Senthil Balaji — one of the 18 disqualified MLAs who sided with AMMK leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran — to join its ranks.

Record for ruling party

As for the ruling AIADMK, it dispelled doubts about the stability of the government post Jayalalithaa’s death. The acid test will be the elections. After the drubbing in last year’s R.K. Nagar by-poll, the ruling party will be tested to the limit in the New Year. The leadership qualities of Mr. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam will be tested as they will have to come up with electoral strategy on their own without Jayalalithaa, who led them for 30 years.

The refusal of the AIADMK government to allocate land in the iconic Anna Square in Chennai for Karunanidhi’s funeral, citing pending cases, underscored yet again that politics in the Dravidian land remained bitter and could reach acrimonious levels during an election year.

The AIADMK, as a party, beat its own record of over 2,000 consecutive days in power, set during the MGR regime. The party also completed over 10,000 days in power overall.

After the upholding of the disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs by the Madras High Court, Mr. Dhinakaran suffered a huge embarrassment, as Mr. Balaji switched to the DMK. Now, questions are being raised about his ability to hold his flock together.

New players

The passing away of DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi on August 7 left a huge vacuum in Tamil Nadu’s political scene, prompting new players to try their luck. Actor Kamal Haasan, who seems committed to his political journey, launched his party — Makkal Needhi Maiam — in February, while co-star Rajinikanth, after raising expectations on the launch of his party, continues to look like a cat on the wall.

National parties’ outlook

The Congress and the BJP would be hoping to improve their vote base this election year. In both parties, rumours keep swirling of a change in their respective State leadership, but the BJP’s Tamilisai Soundararajan and the Congress’ Su. Thirunavukkarasar continue to hold the reins. While the Congress seems secure for the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP would be banking on the AIADMK and Mr. Rajinikanth, if he enters politics or lends his support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

MDMK’s Vaiko and VCK’s Thol. Thirumavalavan only showed that they were keen on remaining friendly with the DMK and contest the polls under the DMK camp. The DMDK and the PMK have kept their options open.

Seeman’s Naam Tamizhar Katchi became very vociferous, questioning the relevance of Dravidian ideology and its founder Periyar.



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