Rajinikanth's political plunge

How past alternatives failed in Tamil Nadu

The perceived vacuum in political leadership, caused by the health setback of M. Karunanidhi and the death Jayalalithaa has given a glimmer of hope for others to make fresh attempts.  

With film actor Rajinikanth announcing his decision to launch a party and contest the next Assembly elections on his own, the debate has again cropped up over whether the latest attempt to establish a political organisation as an alternative to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will succeed electorally.

Even though there has been widespread talk of the existence of space for an alternative political force, all the bids to forge one came a cropper since 1977 when the AIADMK emerged as a key player in State politics.

Senior Congress leader G. K. Moopanar made determined attempts in 1977 and 1989, and his party had tie-ups with smaller parties. On both the occasions, he could not succeed.

Vaiko of the MDMK was part of three attempts — 1996, 2001 and 2016, the last one as part of the People Welfare Front. In 1996, the MDMK aligned with the CPI(M) and the Janata Dal, whereas, in 2001, the party contested on its own.

In the last Assembly elections held in 2016, three parties — Bharatiya Janata Party, Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Naam Tamilar Katchi — had sought to project themselves separately as alternative forces but all the three, put together, could not get even 10% of the vote share.

How past alternatives failed in Tamil Nadu

Change in situation

Yet, the perceived vacuum in political leadership, caused by the health setback of M. Karunanidhi of the DMK and the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK, has given a glimmer of hope for others to make fresh attempts.

Former Minister Panruti S. Ramachandran, who was part of the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam in 1991 and 2006, respectively, when the two parties had sought to challenge the supremacy of the DMK and the AIADMK, explains that lack of charismatic leadership, absence of an “inclusive alternative vision” for the people of the State, and the absence of an organisational structure in every nook and corner doomed earlier forays.

Rajinikanth's political plunge

While pointing out that Mr. Rajinikanth may emerge as a force to reckon with, even by polling 15% of the votes, Mr. Ramachandran feels that the veteran actor may not be able to present “a credible, winning alternative.” During the 1996 Assembly elections, there was “[political] hunger [among the people] for his (Mr. Rajnikanth’s) presence” but that no longer exists. The age factor and the identification with “a particular religion” are handicaps, he says.

B. S. Gnanadesikan, Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) leader, says that if anyone wants to take on the two Dravidian majors, one has to be conscious of the financial strength of the principal parties which extends up to the level of blocks. He, however, adds that Mr. Rajinikanth “definitely does make” an impact on the politics of Tamil Nadu, pointing at how his decision has already reached villages.

Gnani, veteran political commentator, says the success of Mr. Rajnikanth’s foray into politics depends upon what he is going to promise to the people. “For example, one has to see whether he will continue with the welfare schemes,” he said.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 5:07:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/how-past-alternatives-failed-in-tamil-nadu/article22356782.ece

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