When the opposition party played the role of NGO

The DMK seems to believe that doing the government’s work is the best way of exposing its alleged inaction and staking claim for another shot at power

Updated - June 27, 2017 07:43 am IST

Published - June 27, 2017 12:26 am IST - CHENNAI

Leader of the Opposition and DMK working president M.K. Stalin inaugurates the desilting of Muthu Mariamman Temple tank at Kolathur.

Leader of the Opposition and DMK working president M.K. Stalin inaugurates the desilting of Muthu Mariamman Temple tank at Kolathur.

Gone are the days when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was content with organising protests and issuing a string of angry statements attacking the government.

The main opposition party seems to believe that the most effective way of exposing the AIADMK government’s alleged inaction, is by doing rather than merely speaking. The massive programme to desilt water bodies across the State has been conceived with this in mind.

“We have stepped in where the government has failed. Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced ₹300 crore to desilt 2,200 irrigation tanks under the kudimaramathu scheme (restoring water bodies with involvement of locals), but nothing happened after that. So, we have decided to do the work on behalf of our party,” DMK working president M.K. Stalin told The Hindu. Desilting has become a top priority for the DMK district secretaries and leaders. Mr. Stalin is regularly touring the State to take part in the work and the desilting programme is seen as a continuation of the Namakku Naame mass contact programme launched by him in the run up to the 2016 Assembly election.

“Realising that we are stealing the limelight, the government has woken up and directed officials not to give permission to us to desilt public water bodies and canals. We are desilting temple tanks and water bodies owned by various charities,” says Mr. Stalin.

An image makeover

In today’s political environment, the DMK hopes the desilting programme will enhance its image as a public spirited organisation and dispel the impression that it is more interested in the politics of confrontation than constructive work. Mr. Stalin rejected the suggestion that the DMK was doing this for political mileage.

“Almost every water body in the State has become a dumping yard and causing health problem. Besides removing the garbage, we also create walkers path around the water body. Our efforts will pay rich dividend in terms of improving the ground water,” he added.

The DMK’s work is believed to have been the catalyst for the Tamil Nadu government’s announcement permitting farmers to take the nutrient-rich silt from water bodies at no cost.

“For many years, this was not allowed. Now, the government has granted permission to them, and in the process, the water holding capacity of the water bodies is increased,” said former Minister Thangam Thennarasu.

He said many small water bodies in a derelict stage have got a new lease of life because of DMK’s desilting work.

The DMK, of course, is not the first party to venture into non-political work.

The MDMK, for instance, has been at the forefront of the campaign to remove the invasive seemaikaruvelam species from the State’s water bodies.

Asked why a political party should directly involve itself in non-political work instead of forcing the government to do it, MDMK general secretary Vaiko said public service was an integral part of political work.

“When I filed a petition in the High Court seeking a direction to remove seemaikaruvelam , the judge requested our party to create awareness among the people. So I led my party in removing the invasive plant,” says Mr. Vaiko.

The Communist parties made siramathanapani (voluntary work) a part of their programme much earlier.

“Even in 1960s, we laid roads in many areas. C. Murugaian, who was the first Communist leader to become the president of the Kottur Panchayat union, was known as Siramanthanapani Murugaian. He mobilised people and laid roads in many small villages,” said CPI State secretary R. Mutharasan.

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