New Delhi: After V.K. Sasikala, the sacked All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary and close aide of former Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, was released from jail Tuesday, there were concerns that her return could impact Tamil Nadu’s upcoming state elections. In episode 670 of ThePrint’s ‘Cut The Clutter’, Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta decodes the layers of Tamil Nadu’s unique politics, from Sasikala and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s M.K. Stalin to iconoclasm.
Tamil Nadu has the most ‘unique’ political set up in India, Gupta explained. It is unique because for almost 50 years now, no national party has been able to rule the state on its own. Usually, the ruling party has been in coalition with the Congress or the BJP. The national parties have been the junior partners and the dominant partner is the Dravidian party.
“Many saw Sasikala as the political legatee of Jayalalithaa. When, Jayalalithaa died, there was a kind of a succession, an unhappy and unsettled succession…. Sasikala along with her nephew Dinakaran — that led to a lot of a rumbles within the AIADMK,” said Gupta.
However, he asserted that Sasikala’s return wouldn’t have an impact because while she has been away, no one has taken her to be a natural successor to Jayalalithaa. Moreover, she is a convict now and cannot contest elections or hold public office for six years.
Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister Edappadi Karuppa Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister Ottakarathevar Panneerselvan have both said that there is no place for Sasikala in their party.
“…from whatever I read in Tamil Nadu press and whatever I understand from our reporters, it doesn’t look like she’ll be able to hijack the AIADMK,” he added.
In which case, she is left with a party that her nephew set up called AMMK, or Amma Makkah Munnetra Kazhagam. This faction, lately, has shown the ability to take at least five per cent of the vote away from AIADMK.
“In a straight election in a polarised scenario, five per cent is a lot of votes. Because even one per cent can be the difference between a landslide win and a devastating defeat,” Gupta explained.
Also read: How Jayalalithaa aide Sasikala’s return from jail could shake AIADMK fine balance before polls
MK Stalin’s ‘Vel act’
Meanwhile, DMK president M.K. Stalin held a ‘vel’ (spear) at a Makkal Grama Sabha meeting at Tiruttani, Tamil Nadu. This particular spear was held by Lord Karthikeya, who is one of the sons of Shiva and Parvati and brother of Lord Ganesha.
The news of Stalin holding a vel became a ‘big story’. “Therein lies another of those nuances and diversities of Indian politics and Tamil politics because for DMK, or even AIADMK politics, atheism has been part of their central ideology,” said Gupta.
The Dravidar Kazhagam movement, from which both the DMK and AIADMK are derived, was a movement by iconoclasts (people who like to break idols). They were a party of idol-breakers ideologically, politically and physically.
For Stalin to be carrying a religious symbol now becomes a big story. “It becomes a bit like DMK owning up religion, which its founders had discarded.”
Also read: Sasikala, Jayalalithaa aide & expelled AIADMK leader, released from jail after 4 years
The BJP also decided to launch a ‘Vetri vel Yatra’. It noticed that both Palaniswami and Panneerselvan were fighting with each other and there were dissensions within the AIADMK. “There were chances of some division and BJP thought that they could run a knife through those cracks…” said Gupta.
There was also a time when actor Rajnikanth seemed willing to join politics and be the ‘BJP mascot-cum-leader’ in Tamil Nadu. So, the BJP thought that with the AIADMK divided like this, they would have an opportunity to strike out. “….the ideal thing for them would have been to use that leverage to get a much larger share of seats, than the divided AIADMK, so they decided to launch the Vetri Vel Yatra,” he revealed.
They were attempting to get at a ‘Tamilised Hindutva’. But, AIADMK stopped that yatra due to Covid restrictions.
In the upcoming elections, Gupta predicted that the chances are BJP will have some kind of alliance with AIADMK. The BJP has very little chance of making any impact in Tamil Nadu on its own.
Also read: After Karunanidhi, can Stalin saga be a fitting sequel like Godfather II?
Gupta recalled the legacy of Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy who started the Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam. He is known as the ‘Father of the Dravidian movement’.
Periyar laid the foundations of a Dravidian movement, which was a rational, atheist, anti-caste movement, out of which the DMK and AIADMK grew.
“To think that the state where atheists have ruled for 55 years, that state is now going through such a radical change, that these atheist parties or political descendants are not unwilling to embrace religion, or at least don’t detest it or reject it,” Gupta said.
Populism has emerged as the new ideology in Tamil Nadu. “Both parties do populism, both distribute a lot of welfare and do it efficiently. So, I would say the ideology that divides Tamil Nadu politics now is competitive populism,” he explained.