People's endorsement: On DMK front’s victory in Tamil Nadu urban civic polls

The victory of the ruling DMK front in the Tamil Nadu urban local body polls is a resounding mandate across corporations, municipalities and town panchayats. Though the Opposition was splintered, the string of successes is an endorsement of the governance in the last nine months. Party president and Chief Minister M.K. Stalin meticulously planned the AIADMK’s decimation, wanting to avenge the DMK’s humiliation in the western region nine months ago when no DMK candidate made it to the Assembly from Coimbatore and Dharmapuri. Apart from governmental attention to the region, Mr. Stalin deputed two Ministers to Coimbatore and Salem to prepare the political pitch. The DMK has captured local bodies in the backyards of former Chief Ministers Edappadi K. Palaniswami and O. Panneerselvam. As Mr. Stalin impressed upon the newly elected representatives, it is important to deliver on the ground. As a former Chennai Mayor, he is cognisant that missteps by councillors, the last mile connectors with the people, could tarnish the ruling party’s image, and he will need to monitor their work constantly.

The AIADMK cannot wish away the rout on the scale of its 1996 debacle, blaming it on money power, misuse of government machinery or propounding it is natural for the Opposition to lose civic elections. Its two leaders can no longer confine operational bases to their respective caste-fortified political comfort zones and expect to ride on the approval by a coterie populated in the party’s high-level committees. Their vote pulling capacity is based on the strength of the organisation built by M.G. Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa. Hence, they must reach out to ground functionaries and undertake course correction. There could be patch up calls with Jayalalithaa’s confidante V.K. Sasikala and the breakaway Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam. Since the separation has not helped either party, there will be pressure to enter into mutual adjustments. The party would do well not to fight shy of criticising the central government when it comes to issues affecting the people. The BJP, which has created a perception that it is no longer a pushover in the Dravidian heartland, has had no qualms attacking the AIADMK or poaching its steering committee member. Irrespective of poll statistics, the BJP has indeed scored victories in newer territories. A section of voters chose BJP candidates over the Naam Tamilar Katchi and the Makkal Needhi Maiam, though the party did not make much of an impact in what is still a bipolar polity. Given that past alternatives to the Dravidian majors faded after one or two stunning shows, it is too early to conclude that the BJP would stay the course as a political alternative. Meanwhile, Mr. Stalin, who described the victory as people’s endorsement for the “Dravidian model” of governance, must continue to focus on development, and livelihood issues of the people, and not be distracted by petty politics.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 10:23:33 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/peoples-endorsement-the-hindu-editorial-on-dmk-fronts-victory-in-tamil-nadu-urban-civic-polls/article65077683.ece