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Liberalism is a political philosophy that professes openness to new ideas, promotion of individual rights and civil liberties, and equality before the law. India’s national political parties have been interested in bits and pieces of liberalism but not the hard-core liberalism. Perennial centrists of Congress always went as far as a cocktail of reforms that suits the decade without committing to core liberal democratic values such as LGBTQ rights, and the so-called left parties cherry-picking Women’s rights without ever electing a single woman chief minister or a party chief, Bharathiya Janata Party openly embracing religious politics, no national party has presented itself as a liberal party in India. All of that changed with Modi’s entry into politics. Modi’s politics openly embraces conservatism such as disdain for State’s presence in business, open hostility to secularism, and undeclared war on social welfare schemes. While the present ruling party’s love affair with conservatism has just begun, the void for a truly liberal party in national politics has widened with the fall of Congress. In a battle of Conservativism Vs. Liberalism political debates, right wing parties are ahead by leaps and bounds. They imported taunts like ‘Libtards’, ‘woke media’ and ‘sickuralism’ from western conservative counterparts whereas the liberal politics is in disarray. Well, except one party!
As Tamil Nadu’s new finance minister, PTR said in an interview that in the very acronym of DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) the letter ‘M’ stands for progressive ideas. One should not forget that Tamilnadu is the bedrock of liberal and progressive ideas such as free midday meals, free uniforms and shoes for school children, free bus rides for college students, Bank loans for Women Self Help Groups, and massive Kalaignar Kapitu Thittam (CMCHIS) which was a pioneer to Obamacare itself. DMK is not only just a mere champion of government welfare schemes, which are sneered at as freebies by media, but also an ardent advocate for states’ rights, linguistic equality, and Transgender rights. In every sense, DMK is the real liberal party that our national politics very much needs so. But can DMK capture the fancy of the nation like Modi did in 2014, if it is waded into national politics? So far, DMK since its inception is a predominantly a regional power, focusing on Tamil language promotion, cultural politics and a socialist welfare state. How could a Hindi opposing, deep south party capture the vote of North India?
Sun TV and other massive media apparatus in their quiver
Since the privatization of Cable channels and TV channels, the Maran brothers have created a mammoth media kingdom named Sun Network, whose logo resembles the electoral symbol of the DMK party. Sun Network rules the South Indian news arena and a force to reckon with in Tamilnadu’s politics. With the fall of all liberal media and the skyrocketing of the sensational, TRP-driven right-wing media anyone dreaming of mounting an opposition against the image conscientious Modi government needs a media of their own for reaching out to the masses. Embracing new technologies like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, hiring Prashant Kishore like strategists, and spearheading an election campaign via TV channels and newspapers has become a necessity in today’s political arena. As of now, Sun Network does not have any Hindi or North Indian language channels or newspapers but building such apparatus overnight is within their wherewithal only. It gives DMK an unparalleled edge over any other opposition parties in India, even the congress.
The promise of South-like development for Hindi heartland
Indian heartland’s infatuation with Modi was largely due to his incessant efforts, his overblown propagandist image as Modinomics and Gujarat Models rather than any religious overture. The disastrous implementation of demonetisation and horrid conceptualization of GST nearly finished any hope for development-oriented, economy-driven politics from BJP. Whatever’s left of beliefs on Modi government is after those disasters are completely annihilated by the Himalayan mismanagement of Covid-19 crisis. However, I refuse to believe that the Hindi heartland has given up on social justice and the development of their neighbourhoods. DMK, who led Tamil Nadu’s dreams of modernization and social justice into a tangible reality, is in a better place to woo the Hindi heartland people in this regard. Making less resourceful, water ravaged, and less travelled Tamil Nadu state into water sufficient, highly educated, and employed state isn’t a small feat. It is a story worth telling to aspiring Gen Z voters of India. Almost all flyovers of Chennai is built by M.K. Stalin as a mayor, IT parks are built by the government to woo companies to set up outsourcing offices by Dayanidhi Maran and attracting major automobile manufacturers to transform Chennai as Chicago of South India is a story worth telling to first-time voters and development hungry heartland millennial voters.
A big tent for intellectuals, artists, atheists, and minorities
The Deep South party, since its inception, has always been a refuge for intellectuals such as academia like Nedunchezhiyan, Anbazhagan, singers, actors, screenwriters (ex-CM Annadurai and Karunanidhi were popular screenwriters and civil service aspirants. Critics were not met with open hostility and dissent on policies was not looked down, however, dissent and defiance on governance were dealt with an iron fist. DMK once declared itself an atheist, rationalist party has many pious Hindus, Muslims, and Christians amidst them. Unlike the ‘Padmaavat’ movie release fiasco, the Aishwarya Rai-starrer “Iruvar” (1997) movie, which alluded to be the portrayal of Karunanidhi and MGR’s relationship over the three decades, was applauded and the DMK government gave many awards to the movie. Both late Karunanidhi and the present M.K. Stalin are keen on having all-party meetings to resolve the sensitive political issues, instead of taunting, hurling personal insults, and pursuing a vendetta. When media is not in their favor, instead of stifling the media, DMK went on to establish Sun TV to reach out to the masses. It was the most effective, democratic, futuristic action ever taken when Twitter-like social media platforms were not available. Hence, the embracing intellectualism, leaning towards more liberties, and faith in democratic institutions like opposition and media make DMK a good candidate as a liberal party.
Ambitions and Compromises
Modi’s rise is largely owing to his lofty ambitions, utilising opportunities and tirelessly realising his dreams. DMK needs to have such traits to catapult in order to become a national party. DMK during its stints in union cabinet positions has got the first-row seat of the glory and powers of the union government. There might be some desire; however, lack of Hindi skills may hurt their chances politically. The dismal ground performance and comatose state of the Congress gives once in a life opportunity to DMK to rise in the national politics as a viable opposition party to Modi. Apart from DMK, it is TMC’s Mamta Bannerjee the other possible candidate for a national level opposition for BJP. DMK could counter Modi’s popularity by posing Kanimozhi as second female PM candidate or R.Raja as first Dalit candidate for PM or the most articulate finance wizard PTR as an ardent Hindu candidate, last but not the least, Stalin could nominate Prashant Kisore as PM candidate and capture the imagination of the country altogether. As Heraclitus, the great Greek philosopher sagely said, “Big results require big ambitions.”
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