Deepening crisis in Tamil Nadu

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Dhinakaran may have created history by winning the RK Nagar constituency but he is definitely not the one who can lead the State. The problem with Tamil Nadu is that it is leaderless. Young leaders do not command the same stature as old ones

Tamil Nadu is back in focus.  This time due to the surprising RK Nagar by-election result, which has raised a pertinent question as to whether corruption is an issue at all in this country or not. The by-election results say no. Who would have ever thought that the people of RK Nagar constituency, which was earlier represented by J Jayalalithaa, would elect a man with a perceived corrupt image?

With the return of TTV Dhinakaran, nephew of Sasikala and Jayalalithaa’s companion, the Mannargudi clan is back in the reckoning. Dhinakaran fought as an independent candidate because the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), led by E Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam, had expelled him and his aunt from the party.

The surprising result of RK Nagar bypoll result seems to have upset many stakeholders and there is bound to be a realignment of political forces in the State. The first to be hit was the ruling EPS-OPS combine, which was hoping to claim the legacy of Jayalalithaa.

With such a handsome margin, surpassing even that of Jayalalithaa, Dhinakaran and Sasikala will not let them claim her legacy, asserting that they are the real AIADMK even if the Election Commission of India recognised the united AIADMK as the real party and had also allotted the two leaves symbol to the Panneerselvam-Palaniswami combine.

The AIADMK had all the benefits. It has the Government, a good candidate in Madhusudanan, money and MLAs. Dhinakaran has already claimed that the AIADMK Government will fall in three months. Read this as a warning that he is planning to destabilise the Government and would also like to become the Chief Minister at the earliest by devising all methods, including horse-trading. The only saving grace for the EPS-OPS combine will be if the legislators do not want to face an election at all. They still have another three and a half years to go.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working President MK Stalin is another man who is disappointed with the election result because he was hoping to establish his leadership and had also been going round the State, enthusing the cadres. This was the first acid test for him after he took over the reins of the party as the working president. The by election result will surely dent his image to a certain extent.

The DMK too had many advantages. It had the support of committed voters, good cadre and other parties like the Congress, the Left and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi.

On the other hand, the AIADMK votes had a three-way split. The BJP tried hard to come closer to the DMK. In a friendly gesture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited ailing M Karunanidhi  in his Gopalapuram residence and he had also invited him to come and take rest at his Delhi residence.

Added to that was the relief the DMK got when former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and all other accused in the 2G scam case were acquitted  on the day of the polling.

Meanwhile, the AIADMK Government was going nowhere. There were no development work undertaken by them. Despite all these, the DMK came third and also lost its deposit. 

As for the Congress and other smaller parties, like the Pattali Makkal Katchi, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, they did not have much at stake.

The BJP came last and even the number of None Of The Above votes were double than what its candidate secured. This must have been a big disappointment for a party which has been trying hard to find its feet in the south and more so in Tamil Nadu, where it does not have a single MLA.

The BJP was trying to ride piggyback first with Panneerselvam after Jayalalithaa’s death when he was the Chief Minister of the State and then when the EPS-OPS faction united and formed the AIADMK Government.

When this strategy did not work, the BJP tried making an alliance with the DMK. Now, the results have apparently made it clear that it seems to have been baking all the wrong horses. So, it is keeping all its options open for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.

Though Dhinakaran is a winner now, he has to cross a hurdle race. There are several pending cases against him. It is a big if whether he can get the AIADMK legislators to join him and if he can become the Chief Minister of the State. It is not clear what stand the BJP will take against him as the party at the Centre has been cold to both Dhinakaran and Sasikala.

One thing is certain. Instability in the State, which has been known for its progress, will continue. After the demise of Jayalalithaa and the deteriorating health of Karunanidhi, there has been a vacuum. Younger leaders are not of the same stature — be it Stalin or Anbumani Ramadoss or Vijayakanth or any other Congress leader like Su Thirunavukkarasar.

Even aspiring film heroes like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan will not come up to their level. How can a leaderless State go forward? This is what is ailing Tamil Nadu. Instability in all parties may continue until some strong leader emerges to fill up the vacuum. Dhinakaran is certainly not that leader.

(The writer is a senior political commentator and syndicated columnist)

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