Heir to stay: dynasty politics is hard to beat in Tamil Nadu

Several sons and daughters of party leaders have found a place n the candidate list of both the DMK and the AIADMK

Updated - March 24, 2019 09:05 pm IST

Published - March 24, 2019 09:04 pm IST - CHENNAI

Son and son: Udhayanidhi Stalin, son of DMK president, campaign for Kathir Anand, son of senior party leader Duraimurugan, in Vellore.

Son and son: Udhayanidhi Stalin, son of DMK president, campaign for Kathir Anand, son of senior party leader Duraimurugan, in Vellore.

In 2012, by introducing the “Stalin formula” to keep family members of senior leaders out of posts in the DMK’s youth wing, M.K. Stalin, now party president, paved the way for new faces in a rigid, hierarchical organisation. Further, he split the party’s district units into two or three to curtail the enormous influence the district secretaries had been wielding in the organisation.

But as it turns out, redistribution of power at the district level was easier said than done. The presence of six sons and daughters of former Ministers in the candidate list of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for the Lok Sabha election proves that the senior leaders still wield clout. The trend is no different in the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which has fielded sons of four party leaders.

“Can you deny seat to a well-qualified candidate just because he is the ward of a party leader,” asks Tamizhachi Thangapandian, the DMK’s South Chennai candidate.

Ms. Thangapandian, an English teacher and poet, is the daughter of the late Thangapandian, a former Minister. Her brother Thangam Thennarasu is a former Minister and district secretary of the DMK.

“Our family suffered during the Emergency, and I, along with my mother and brother, would regularly visit the Collectorate to know the whereabouts of my father. We have worked for the party like everyone else, and it is unfair to say that we are rewarded because of our family connection. I resigned from my post in the college since I was asked to hoist the party flag in the party’s youth wing conference in Tirunelveli,” she told The Hindu .

Arcot V. Kalanidhi, son of former Minister Arcot N. Veerasamy, and D.M. Kathir Anand, son of senior DMK party leader and former Minister Duraimurugan, said that contrary to the popular perception, being children of senior leaders was a disadvantage.

“If one goes by the argument that I was allotted the North Chennai seat because of my father’s influence, I need not have waited thus far. I could have obtained ticket in the 2016 Assembly election. I was an aspirant, but was denied ticket,” says Dr. Kalanidhi, a plastic surgeon by training and joint secretary of the party’s medical wing.

Mr. Anand says that though he became a member of the party immediately after completing school, he remained an ordinary party member without any position all these years. “I participated in all the events and protests organised by the party as an ordinary member. Despite my exposure to party politics and local issues concerning the general public, I shunned the limelight all these years,” says Mr. Anand, who holds an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University, U.S. He is contesting the Vellore seat.

Gowtham Sigamani, DMK candidate for the Kallakurichi constituency, is the son of former Minister K. Ponmudi and an orthopaedic physician by training. “I joined the party in 1989, and I have been running a welfare association in the name of party leader M.K. Stalin and organising blood donation camps,” he says. “While it looks like we have an advantage over others, in reality we were overlooked many times,” he says, rejecting the allegation that he was given a seat because of his father’s influence.

Former Minister Dayanidhi Maran, son of former Union Minister Murasoli Maran, is re-entering the fray from the Central Chennai constituency and party MP Kanimozhi, daughter of former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, is contesting for the first time in a Lok Sabha election from Thoothukudi.

AIADMK scene

In the ruling AIADMK, the South Chennai candidate and sitting MP, J. Jayavardhan, is the son of Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar. Dr. Jayavardhan was first chosen when former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was at the helm of affairs in the party. This time, it is a case of renomination for the MP, who is the joint secretary of the Puratchi Thalavi Peravai.

Madurai candidate V.V.R. Rajsathyan is the son of party MLA Rajan Chellappa; Theni candidate Ravindranathkumar is the son of Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam; and Tirunelveli candidate P.H. Manoj Pandian is the son of former Speaker and MP P.H. Pandian.

Mr. Manoj Pandian, a member of the party for over 25 years and now an organising secretary, says he had conducted legal cases for both Jayalalithaa and ordinary AIADMK members, apart from defending the interests of the party in the Election Commission or in the courts.

He recalled how Jayalalithaa had recognised his services at different points of time. Mr, Manoj Pandian, Chernamahadevi MLA from 2001 to 2006 and a Rajya Sabha member from 2010 to 2016, is contesting from Tirunelveli.

“A person cannot be disqualified merely because he or she is the child of a political leader,” he says. “Merely being the son of a leader is not a qualification. At the same time, if one performs well, it [the family background] is not a disqualification.”

Mr. Rajsathyan, 36, who joined the AIADMK around 2006, was part of the party’s information technology wing. In 2016, he was elevated as joint secretary of the wing and a year later, promoted as secretary following the revolt led by Mr. Panneerselvam. After the merger of the Palaniswami and Panneerselvam factions in September 2017, he was again made joint secretary.

Mr. Ravindranathkumar, 39, has been a member of the party since 1998. Between 2009 and 2016, he was secretary of the Theni district youth wing. A year ago, he was appointed secretary of the district unit of Amma Peravai.

Describing the nomination of sons and daughters of leaders as an unhealthy trend, K. Thirunavukkarasu, a historian of the Dravidian Movement, says it does not augur well for democracy.

“There were rare cases of Rajaji’s son R. Narasimhan and C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer’s son C.R. Pattabhiraman entering politics and becoming MPs. But dynasty politics has become a norm today, and it has affected the local party men who are aspiring for a role in democratic institutions,” he says.

Explaining the rationale behind the selection of the leaders’ sons, AIADMK spokesperson Kovai Sathyan says politics cannot be an exception when sons and daughters pursued the profession of their parents in other fields.

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