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Tamil Nadu: Responsibility or opportunity for BJP?

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Hariharan Iyer
Hariharan Iyer
23 Years Old. B Com from Mumbai University. Pursuing MA Political Science from Mumbai University. IAS Aspirant.      

Having adopted a federal democratic structure, the Indian Political domain space can be bifurcated into two parts – Centre and State / UT. Personifying the vivid diversities of different states to be different rivers, it can be said that the Centre is the culminating congregation point of all the rivers whereas States/UT being the point of origin of those diversities.

These diversities offered by states can be due to various reasons – religious, linguistic, caste, cultural, historical, geographical etc. But when these differences are exploited by regional political parties it leads to the emergence of Sub Nationalism which is often fostered by reverberating the popular passions of people. When these regional political parties, over a period of time start enjoying considerable political representation, the State and its people are deprived of an alternative political narrative.

Tamil Nadu brings to the table diversities in all the horizons. But these diversities have seldom reached the ultimate point of congregation; bound by strong regional ideological walls. It has seldom penetrated the Indian political mainstream and the mainstream has been unsuccessful in merging the regional Dravidian political thought. Exception is a universal reality and the exception to Tamil Nadu’s diverse offering is the political space. Tamil Nadu’s politics is a completely different ball game as it is played on a completely different platform. It has its roots in the Dravidian Ideology. Dravidian politics is the only strong root in to the Tamil soil with its various branches experiencing blooming flowers in different points of time. Dravidism as portrayed by its pioneers feature certain fundamental traits like rejection of a substitute language to Tamil, Atheism, Anti Brahmanism, Self respect etc. Pioneers of Dravidism have ensured that these concepts are enshrined in the masses deeper than their intellect which is a testimony to the fact that Dravidian politics has driven Tamil Nadu for over five decades.

The Official Languages Act 1963, intending to unite the linguistically diverse nation through Hindi faced the strongest opposition in Tamil Nadu leading to secessionist sentiments. Dravidian ideology was so dense that the governing elite had to ultimately kneel down to Dravidian demands and offer concessions with respect to Hindi. This Dravidian movement was spearheaded by E V Ramaswamy, through his Dravida Kazhagam which also had as its objective a separate land for Dravidians, The Dravida Nadu. Tamil (Dravidians/Adi Dravidas), one of the oldest languages on earth, was used as a tool to woo the theists, by portraying how it was significantly better than Sanskrit (Brahmins) or Hindi (Aryans). He propagated Dravidian ideology without having any intention to take a political plunge. The reason given for his reluctance to enter electoral politics is that politics has the inherent tendency to compromise which will dilute the ideology. As an alternative viewpoint, a question still remains unanswered – Did the disbelief in the Indian Union and demand for Dravida Nadu as a separate nation prevent his participation in the Indian electoral politics?

Loyal to E V Ramaswamy’s ideology, but wanting to enter electoral politics was C N Annadorai, E V Ramaswamy’s lieutenant in Dravida Kazhagam. He separated himself from E V Ramaswamy and formed a separate political entity, which later on became an important pillar of Tamil Nadu politics, The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). After C N Annadorai, M Karunanidhi took over DMK. Although accused of unparalleled levels of corruption and promoting family interests, he went on to become one of the most important & successful Indian politicians of all times. M G Ramachandran, an important face of Tamil Nadu’s politics and film fraternity, created the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) from DMK after falling apart from its leader M Karunandihi. He went on to become one of the most successful Chief Ministers which India has ever produced as his policies were focused on social Issues of poverty, hunger, education & health. J Jayalalitha succeeded M G Ramachandran in AIADMK.

When Dravidian ideology seeped through generations, expectedly or unexpectedly it also brought Personality Oriented Politics to Tamil Nadu. Over the years – Who was speaking took precedence over What was being spoken. Mere utterance of the names like M K Karunanidhi or MGR would reverb passions amongst the masses, equivalent to the passions which would be generated when Dravidism was being discussed. Hence, a renowned, mass based leader, enjoying substantial clout was indispensible to succeed politically in Tamil Nadu.

With the demise of two stalwarts – J Jayalalitha & M Karunanidhi  a new, never before experienced political situation has developed in Tamil Nadu:
1) AIADMK lost J Jayalalitha which led to a deep turmoil in the party as it broke into many factions fighting the succession battle under the same ideological banner. This will definitely lead to a strong disenchantment amongst the electorate. Even loyalists would be tempted to move away from their loyalties as significant questions would be raised regarding the capability of a party to give stable governance whose house itself is in disorder. J Jayalalitha herself united splinter AIADMK factions into a strong united AIADMK and ascended the throne. However she could not nurture strong leaders to take over the party as part of her succession strategy. No one would believe that AIADMK lacked talent which can blossom into mass leadership. No one can believe that J Jayalalitha lacked the foresight of a probable succession issue to plague the party after her.

2) DMK lost M Karunanidhi, patriarch of Dravidism for over 5 decades. M K Stalin has been formally declared as the successor of DMK.

AIADMK is in its second consecutive term and therefore facing anti incumbency. The succession battle in AIADMK adds fuel to the already existing problems. Hence prima facie, winds would naturally turn in favor of the largest opposition party –DMK.

But, how is this political vacuum in Tamil Nadu going to affect the central political domain space? With 39 seats, Tamil Nadu has much to offer to the Lok Sabha and parliamentarians from Tamil Nadu are essential to form a stable government in Delhi. Cornering 37 seats in the 2014 General Elections, AIADMK’s performance in Tamil Nadu under J Jayalalitha can be compared to BJPs performance at the national level. But, what Tamil Nadu has for 2019?

The 16th Lok Sabha elections witnessed an outcome which impacted the political fortunes and the altered political dimensions like never before. BJP won a thumping majority single handedly uprooting 10 years of UPA tenure led by the Indian National Congress (INC). Later, BJP went on to win a number of state assembly elections, municipal bodies & panchayat polls riding on the positive sentiments of 2014 & the charismatic leadership of Hon Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

But, these victories cannot be played down as mere victories as there are other important political dimensions to it.
1) The INC was decimated in successive assembly elections leading to the significant realignment of the political positions with the regional parties in many states replacing the congress.
2) Although BJP has significantly gained since 2014, its political victories were restricted to the north, west and the eastern parts of the nation.

This clearly brings out the hidden truth that Tamil Nadu, as it is, is not understood outside Tamil Nadu.

With the current political vacuum, BJP has a bigger role and responsibility to play than looking at this as an opportunity. It should not enter into any pre poll alliance as no one knows where the votes would go as this is the 1st election without regional stalwarts.BJP should strive hard to make itself a cadre based party, rather than trying to look at this through the narrow perspective of elections. When the iron is hot, it needs to be struck. BJP should ensure that it devises a long term ideologically rich vision for Tamil Nadu, separate from election objectives.State level leaders should be nurtured and a broad based acceptable figure should be developed for the state.

It is upon the BJP to ensure that Tamil Nadu is integrated into national mainstream politics as the INC, which has previously captured power, failed miserably in front of rising Dravidism. Election is a recurring phenomenon, but a strong party presence is important, to direct the narrative, to impact public thought.

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Hariharan Iyer
Hariharan Iyer
23 Years Old. B Com from Mumbai University. Pursuing MA Political Science from Mumbai University. IAS Aspirant.      
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