Dravidian parties get ambitious

“Nellai Enathu Ellai; Kumari Enathu Thollai (Tirunelveli is my limit, while Kanyakumari is my worry).” This pithy remark of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi once about Kanyakumari captures the party’s political dilemmas in the State’s deep south, which has always been the national parties’ stronghold since the first General Election. Barring a few occasions, the main Dravidian parties have shied away from contesting in the cluster of constituencies that make the deep south- starting from Nagercoil— renamed as Kanyakumari after delimitation and also including Tiruchendur (now Tuticorin) and Tirunelveli— leaving it to their national allies.

After many years, it was only in 2009 the DMK fielded its candidate for Kanyakumari, disregarding protests by its Congress ally, and won the seat, to mark the emergence of Dravidian parties in Cape Comerin.

The new political equations in these districts, where regional players now seek a deeper presence, could impinge on the national parties’ fortunes in a Lok Sabha poll.

“The argument that the Dravidian parties depend on the national parties for electoral victory no longer holds water. The older generation of Congressmen are no more and factionalism has taken a heavy toll on the Congress organisation. Today, mutual dependency between the national and Dravidian parties is far more vital for winning the elections,” said V. Umaiorubhagan, Principal, Noorul Islam College of Arts and Science.

Former district panchayat president and DMK Killiyur block secretary Mano Thangaraj agreed that the national parties enjoyed a strong base, but developments at the national and international arena had over the years weakened the BJP and the Left movement in the district. “Lack of proper leadership is also ailing the Congress,” he said.

Though Kanyakumari boasts itself as one of the districts with high literacy rate, religion and caste groups here play a strong, but silent role, in every election.

Long before Hindutva came to dominate national politics, the district, with a substantial population of Christian, saw polarisation on religious lines after the ‘Hindu Munnani’ organised a series of Hindu Awakening conferences in the early 1980s. Mr Thangaraj, however disagrees. “The argument that majority community leaves little space for the others has proved wrong by DMK's district secretary N. Suresh Rajan and CPI(M) district secretary Noor Mohamed. The problem with the BJP is that it could not win the confidence of others because it refused to adopt inclusive politics even after winning the Constituency in 1999,” he said.

Congress MLA J.G. Prince reiterated that the educated section always preferred the Congress and attributed the present state of affairs in the Congress to some leaders who “mortgaged” it for their personal gains.

“Still we have a good chance. People of the district are aware that both the DMK and the AIADMK have nurtured a bias against the district because it never preferred them. It has not been given its due,” said Mr Prince.