New trends in political hobnobbing may rewrite old rules of alliance politics

Contrary to the usual pattern of smaller regional parties teaming up with either of the two dominant players in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, new trends in political hobnobbing may rewrite rules of alliance in the 2014 polls.

The contours of such changes are already visible as both the AIADMK, and to a lesser degree the DMK, pitchfork themselves into the position of potential kingmakers in Delhi, with 40 parliamentary seats, including one in Puducherry, up for grabs on this key southern turf.

One may call it expediency or a new way of ‘social engineering’, as the OBC Vanniyars-dominated Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) fancies it is. Some may even claim the making of a ‘new alternative’ that actor-turned-politician Vijayakant-led Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam would like to believe it is doing. In earlier years, Vaiko-led Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam sought to capture that space but failed. However, one thing seems clear now: the smaller regional parties which hoped to grow riding sub-regional aspirations, on the basis of either jaatis, or socio-economic or even ethnic factors, have been quietly stumped.

These parties not only face more competition from newer players in their own intermediate castes/class groupings — for example, the Indiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK) or factions of the Kongu Naadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KNMDK) in the western belt projecting the economic neglect of the Kongu region. They also face greater vulnerability sans a cohesive ideology that more inclusive parties like the Congress, the Left or the ‘Dravidian Movement’ once imparted.

The splintering of sub-regional aspirations in recent years, partly as an offshoot of the skewed benefits of economic reforms and partly due to regional biggies like the DMK taking centre stage — though the PMK and the MDMK had also briefly tasted power in Delhi — has also undermined their sub-regional identities. Only the Dalit parties, whose room for manoeuvres is comparatively small, seem to have managed the contradictions better. Thus, wild affiliation swings by other smaller players seek new justifications from poll-to-poll. The PMK, the MDMK, the DMDK or even socio-religious outfits like the Manidaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), which were in different camps in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and in the 2011 Assembly polls, now preferring to back the BJP or DMK (in the MMK’s case) seems only a page out of this new text of sub-regionalism losing its sheen.

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