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One year after Jaya, has DMK failed to capitalise on the political vacuum in TN?

THE PARTY NEITHER WENT TO TOWN ON JAYALALITHAA AND SASIKALA’S CONVICTION IN THE DA CASE, NOR DID THEY CAPITALISE THEIR POSITION IN THE STATE ASSEMBLY.
​It was a hot April afternoon, only five months after J Jayalalithaa had passed away. Political tensions were running high and all eyes were on the DMK as a fractured AIADMK continued to make a spectacle of itself. Allegations of corruption following the RK Nagar election had soured the party’s image further in the public’s eyes, and the time couldn’t have been more ripe for the DMK to strike.

Taking to the dias, at DMK leader Arcot Veerasamy’s birthday celebrations, 64-year-old MK Stalin looked emotional as he said, “If party President M Karunanidhi was active today, there would have been several political changes.”

It was a thought running through the mind of the populace, but for the DMK to admit it at a public event shows how clueless the leadership is, say experts.

“For the party’s working president to say this on record, shows that they are largely clueless about how to get rid of the present dispensation,” says RK Radhakrishnan, a political analyst. “The AIADMK lacks public support and suffers from poor image after Jayalalithaa’s death but the DMK has failed to fill this power vacuum,” he adds.

What did they do wrong?

Tamil Nadu stood still in shock on December 5, 2016 as news of J Jayalalithaa’s death made the rounds. The DMK, which had an acrimonious relationship with the Chief Minister, however, took a step back.
To its credit, the party set politics aside and its President said, “I offer deep condolences on the passing away of Jayalalithaa, wishes of lakhs of her followers will make her immortal.”

But the problem was, it failed to move forward after that.

The DA case

Karunanidhi was confined to the bed due to illness following Jayalalithaa’s death and unfortunately for the party, his words came true. Jayalalithaa’s image did not suffer, despite a conviction in the Disproportionate Assets case, and their efforts to not draw her into the matter or politicise the issue, proved to be costly.
“The reason to not bring up Jayalalithaa’s conviction was wise. But in this effort, the DMK completely let go of a crucial victory. The reason she and Sasikala were convicted is because of the DMK’s efforts and persistence in court, ” reminds Gnani Sankaran, a political commentator.

“They should have immediately used this to question Sasikala and the entire AIADMK after she was convicted. Their corruption must have been pointed out,” he adds.

And how could they have made their presence felt?

The answer comes from a leader of the Sasikala faction itself. “If the DMK had held a state wide rally against the AIADMK and say, had one lakh people arrested, that would have left a mark in public memory,” he says.

‘Set fire to the Assembly’

M Karunanidhi was known for his rousing speeches in the state Assembly and at rallies, that caught the imagination of people.
“Stalin should have used the opportunities he got in Assembly to get people to take notice of the DMK’s politics. Simply walking out is not a solution,” says Gnani. “They should have used that platform to attack Sasikala, EPS and OPS but they didn’t. Instead their campaign was too generic and gave a sense of uncertainty,” he explains.

The DMK, however, disagrees with the view. “We have directly gone to the people, interacted with them and exposed the government’s failures,” states DMK leader TKS Elangovan, “We are conducting agitations everywhere and addressing all major issues that come up,” he adds.

What about the DA case?

“Our stand in the matter is vindicated. What else is required of us?” he asks.
Experts however disagree with the view.

“Even now, Stalin does not speak about Sasikala. He does not question the corruption that is rampant in the government strongly,” says Gnani.

The leader from the Sasikala faction points out that the DMK has bureaucrats loyal to them in every department of the government. If need be, they can easily find how the government is looting money and trace the funds being siphoned off. “What are they scared of?” he asks.

Is the DMK kept in line by the BJP?

It is an open secret that the BJP is attempting a backdoor entry into Tamil Nadu, by using its influence over the current dispensation.

The multiple Income tax raids, odd behaviour of Governors in the state and the delay in crucial verdicts following Jayalalithaa’s death, all point to a pattern of control from the Centre, opine experts. But is the DMK too holding back in fear of retaliation from the Centre?

“The 2G case is crucial for the DMK. If their leaders are convicted, the party’s image will take a huge beating. That could be holding them back,” says the former AIADMK leader.

But experts claim, that even a verdict convicting Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi will only benefit Stalin. “That would make the path clear for him. Nobody else can challenge his post,” says Radhakrishnan. “Yes, if Raja is convicted they would have to answer the public, but they must have a strategy ready if and when that happens,” he adds.

The DMK which has been witnessing the Income Tax department’s escalated activity this last year against members of the Sasikala faction, remained muted in its response. “We are not afraid of the I-T or ED,” says TKS Elangovan. “Yes, the BJP is protecting the minority government in power from collapsing. So, only an election will show how popular the DMK has now become,” he adds.

The RK Nagar bye-poll

The DMK has, for the second time, fielded Marudhu Ganesh as its candidate for the RK Nagar bye-poll – a decision that has been questioned due to the candidate’s lack of prominence within the party.

“He is a resident of RK Nagar and his mother was a councillor. She was highly respected in the area. The family has traditionally been supporters of the DMK,” explains TKS Elangovan.

But what should have been a sure shot victory for the party, still remains a multi pronged contest with no clear victor as yet.

The DMK leader admits that the bye-poll is crucial in the current political landscape, but explains that the party has also approached the judiciary in its efforts to derail the ‘minority government’.

“The court is yet to give two orders – one on the wrong disqualification of 18 MLAs from the Sasikala faction, and the other on 11 MLAs of the former OPS faction who should have been dismissed,” explains TKS Elangovan. “Since the Governor remains silent, this order will help prove that this is a minority government,” he adds.

The trial for the case ,which was filed in September, however is still underway with even the Speaker yet to complete his argument in court.

“A legal battle is going to be long drawn out and only the semantics it creates initially has any political impact,” says Radhakrishnan. “As the case pulls on, its political significance will be lost. In its current state of confusion, the DMK is unable to capitalise on this current political turmoil,” he adds.

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