Jayalalithaa died on December 5, 2016 while in office as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. When Edappadi K. Palaniswami, popularly known as (EPS), took over as the Chief Minister of the state on February 16, 2017, amid inter-party rivalry and numerous other challenges, most political commentators thought that the AIADMK government would not survive but the accidental Chief Minister proved his critics wrong by completing the term. He demonstrated his survival techniques by surrendering to the BJP government at the Centre and blatantly supporting all its anti-people policies. This made everyone raise the question whether the state was ruled by the AIADMK or the BJP.
In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the M.K. Stalin-led Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its allies in Tamil Nadu won 38 of the 39 seats. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and its allies (BJP, PMK, others) managed to win only one seat. The huge victory by the DMK and its allies (Congress, CPM, CPI, VCK, others) gave a clear indication that people are highly dissatisfied with the AIADMK front. In the recent Assembly elections, the DMK+ bagged 158 seats out of the total 234 seats paving the way for Stalin to become the Chief Minister.
Though the AIDMK and its allies did know the writing on the wall, they tried to use various tricks such as false propaganda to create confusion among the Tamil people and thus to win their hearts. But the tricks didn’t work.
We can draw the following conclusions from the election results:
*There is no alternative to Dravidian parties in the state.
*The people of Tamil Nadu cannot be divided on the basis of religion.
*Periyar is more relevant today than ever and Periyarism can never be eradicated.
*The BJP cannot win a single seat without being an ally of a major Dravidian party.
No alternative to Dravidian parties
Dravidian parties have been ruling the state since 1967 when C.N. Annadurai, one of the DMK founders, stormed to power by defeating the Congress party. Even after five decades, both the DMK and the AIADMK continue to be more popular than any other party in the state.
In the run-up to the Assembly elections, the BJP and a few other small parties including Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founded by actor Kamal Haasan projected themselves as alternatives to Dravidian parties. The BJP tried to convince film star Rajnikanth, who on various occasions had spoken the language of the BJP and exposed his ideological colour, to back the party directly or launch a new party before the elections with the sole objective of cutting the votes of the two major Dravidian parties, thus creating a situation of hung Assembly. The actor decided to “make an exit without entering politics” as he must have thought that he would not be a successful politician. It came as a huge shock for right-wing politicians who wanted to spoil the winning prospects of Dravidian parties.
The election results prove that Dravidian parties will continue to be popular in the years to come. The small parties led by Kamal Haasan, Seeman and others failed to open their account. The message is written on the wall: No alternatives to Dravidian parties in the near future. Asserting his Dravidian Stock and highlighting the importance of it, Stalin added the phrase “Dravidian Stock” to his Twitter profile immediately after taking charge as the Chief Minister.
‘Hindu consolidation’ did not work
Certain BJP leaders indulged in false propaganda stating that the DMK is anti-Hindu and tried to divide the people in the name of religion. BJP MP from Bangalore South, Tejasvi Surya, for example, called the DMK and its ideology “anti-Hindu” and asked the people not to vote for DMK candidates while campaigning for BJP candidates. He said, “Every Tamil is a proud Hindu. This is the sacred land that has the highest number of temples in the country. Every inch of Tamil Nadu is sacred, but DMK is anti-Hindu, so we must defeat it.”
A narrative was being created by bigots that those who belong to or support the DMK are anti-Hindu. The truth is that the party does not propagate atheism or anti-Hinduism. Devout Hindus, Christians and Muslims have been members of the party and proudly proclaim they are theists. Stalin countered the propaganda and reiterated in his campaign speeches that ‘DMK is not against Hindus’. The party in its manifesto promised financial assistance of Rs 25,000 to 1 lakh for people going on pilgrimage to major Hindu temples and also announced that it would allocate Rs 1,000 crore for the renovation and consecration of Hindu temples.
The BJP’s strategy of “Hindu consolidation” did not work as the people were not ready to be carried away by false propaganda. Now the message is sound and clear: The people of Tamil Nadu cannot be divided on the basis of religion.
‘Periyarism’ can’t be eradicated
Tamil Nadu is the land of E.V. Ramasamy, popularly known as Periyar, who fought against superstition, promoted rational thinking, self-respect, women’s rights and raised his voice against caste system. He strongly opposed the marginalization of non-Brahmin Dravidians and the imposition of Aryan ideology. Today, everyone talks about the importance of critical thinking. Periyar felt the need for it decades ago and made people think and raise questions. The core of Periyarism is rationalism and social justice.
People of higher castes considered Periyar a threat to their agenda of perpetuating caste system and discriminating people based on religion. In the recent past, many Periyar statues were vandalized by Hindu fanatics. Today, owing to the rise of right-wing discourse, some sections of people try to propagate that Periyarism is irrelevant and try to create confusion among people.
Tejaswi Surya made a statement that “We want to put an end to ‘Periyarism’ in Tamil Nadu”. This remark was widely condemned by writers, activists, reformers and common people who think that Periyar is more relevant today than ever. As Periyar said, “Any opposition not based on rationalism or science or experience will one day or other, reveal the fraud, selfishness, lies, and conspiracies.” The election results prove that Periyarism is deeply rooted in Tamil Nadu and it can never be eradicated by any force.
Opportunistic AIADMK-BJP alliance
The AIADMK’s alliance with the BJP has been described by political commentators as highly opportunistic. After the death of Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK was leaderless and it was thought that the party would split into factions. The BJP took it as an advantage and decided to keep the AIADMK under its control. It did succeed in its attempts as Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneer Selvam (OPS) readily surrendered to the BJP in order to escape from many corruption charges against them and to enjoy power.
The BJP forced the AIADMK to have an alliance with it to win a few seats and register its presence in the Assembly. It was like “you scratch my back and I scratch yours” type of benefits for the leaders of both the parties. The cadres of AIADMK were not happy with the unholy alliance as they thought it would affect their electoral victory.
It was the BJP that gained more from the alliance. Quite unexpectedly, it won four seats. Had the BJP contested alone, it would not have won even a single seat.
The election results have demonstrated that the people of Tamil Nadu are secular and they will not allow bigots to take the state’s political space. The fact that Stalin and his ministers took the oath in the name of conscience (not in the name of God) shows that religion does not matter in the state. While thanking the people for having given the DMK the opportunity to rule the state, Stalin said, “From now on, Tamil Nadu will win, the future will show that”.