With the AIADMK trampled beyond recognition, there is little room for error for Stalin and the DMK in its course ahead
In M Karunanidhi’s passing away, Tamil Nadu has lost one of its most influential voices of the Dravidian movement, politics and identity in the past 75 years. He was a man of letters, a captive script-writer, an enthralling orator, a scholar-legislator and a leader with strategic political acumen, and headed the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for 50 years.
The Tamil language, its linguistic rights and the cultural identity of the Tamil people formed the basis of his long public life. His eternal quest for social justice and struggle for the linguistic rights and cultural dignity of Tamil will be remembered forever.
The rise of the DMK, its demand for language rights and its equal status as well as its advocacy of the rights of states made a unique political contribution and impact on the working of Indian federalism.
CN Annadurai and his brigade of young warriors challenged the status quo and redefined the course and contents of Dravidian politics. Anna did not live long enough to steer the course and in 1969 the mantle fell upon the shoulders of Karunanidhi. Karunanidhi simply rose to the occasion and guided the movement and party with remarkable courage and consistency of leadership for the next four-and-a-half decades. His dreams and successes became intertwined with the vision and ideals of the Dravidian movement.
In his passing away, Karunanidhi leaves behind a proud legacy of struggle for social justice, preservation of cultural identity and linguistic rights of the Tamils. Among his contributions to national politics, his active engagement in charting the course of social justice, the resistance against authoritarianism, the demand for the rights of states and the seeds of coalition politics are noteworthy.
Despite the challenges of decay in vision and ideals, changing times and shifting political environment, Karunanidhi leaves behind a mixed basket. On one hand is the secure leadership baton change within the DMK and on the other is the political uncertainty in Tamil Nadu with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) thrusting forward with its own agenda of an alternative to Dravidian parties.
After the passing away of Jayalalithaa in December 2016, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has become a slow but steadily sinking vessel with multiple floaters and it can no longer compete with the DMK in the typical bipolar politics seen in Tamil Nadu.
The AIADMK has been trampled beyond recognition and its current government is riddled with allegations of corruption. The Edappadi Palaniswami government neither enjoys the mandate of the people nor their goodwill. This is a government running on a false lifeline facilitated by the strategic interests of the BJP to drag the state into inertia and present itself as an alternative by combining the assembly and parliamentary elections together.
It is in such a scenario that the responsibility to lead the DMK comes to Stalin. The party, under his leadership, has its role defined and path determined. We will have to wait and watch whether Stalin boldly picks the gamut of challenge offered by the BJP.
This leaves Stalin and the DMK with little room for a political gaffe.
Karunanidhi’s last battle after his death and Stalin’s first fight after his father’s demise are the same – for a rightful place. Tamil Nadu, no doubt, will witness many more pitched battles in the coming days as the politics moves between the confined lanes of political transition within the DMK and the challenge of paradigm shift thrown up by other parties, mainly the BJP.
This is the real challenge Dravidian politics and the people of Tamil Nadu will face in the near future.(Author is professor and head, Department of Politics & Public Administration, University of Madras. The views expressed are personal)