Chennai@2019: The year in retrospect

2019, a year of mixed political fortunes for DMK

Against Act: DMK president M.K. Stalin leads a rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Chennai on Monday. M. Karunakaran

Against Act: DMK president M.K. Stalin leads a rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Chennai on Monday. M. Karunakaran  


Party won LS polls, but its byelection performance wasn’t good enough to dislodge govt.

For the DMK, which has been out of power for two consecutive terms, 2019 has been a year of mixed political fortunes. The outcome of the Lok Sabha polls, in which the party and its allies bagged 38 of the 39 seats, gave it a big boost. However, the fact that it couldn’t oust the Edappadi K. Palaniswami government after the byelections to 24 Assembly constituencies came as a disappointment to its cadre.

The responsibility of leading the election campaign fell on the shoulders of DMK president M.K. Stalin after the demise of his father M. Karunanidhi. He, no doubt, lived up to expectations by steering his alliance successfully. However, the DMK was unable to sustain the gains it made during the Lok Sabha polls for long. When polling was held for the Vellore Parliamentary seat in August – after being deferred in the wake of allegations of money distribution – DMK candidate Kathir Anand scraped through by a mere 8,000-plus votes, in contrast to the massive victory margins registered by the party in May. The DMK managed to win 13 Assembly seats, but that was not enough to unsettle the Palaniswami government, which bagged 9 seats in May and two more, by significant margins, in November.

Though the DMK was able to resist the wave that swept the country in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP government at the Centre, with a brutal majority, left little space for the DMK and its allies in the national political landscape.

In T.N., the party’s strategy in dealing with the local body elections, announced three years after its due date, gave the impression that it was reluctant to face the polls. The DMK’s efforts to ensure proper delimitation and reservation in local bodies was seen as a tactic to further delay the polls. Nonetheless, towards year-end, the DMK seized an opportunity to reinvigorate its political activities by being at the forefront of the efforts to mobilise people against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Mr. Stalin has announced that protests will continue till the Act is repealed.

Anti-Hindu image

Even as the DMK fights the agenda of the BJP, it is under compulsion to dispel its anti-Hindu image. Mr. Stalin himself, on more than one occasion, has stressed that the DMK is not against Hindus, as portrayed by some.

The New Year presents new challenges to the DMK. Though known for its strong organisational structure and powerful district secretaries, the party, of late, has also been depending on poll strategies of ‘outsiders’. The DMK has signed an agreement with poll strategist Prashant Kishor for evolving a strategy for the 2021 Assembly election, after differences of opinion emerged between the high command and Sunil, who was earlier the party’s chief strategist. The DMK’s strength remains in the selfless work of its cadre and second-line leaders. But the space for them in the organisation seems to be shrinking gradually. There is an allegation that rich partymen and children of senior leaders who have the financial resources to face an election are given preference over others — something Mr. Stalin has to fight and prove otherwise.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 2:26:30 AM |

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