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Periyar, Anna, Kalaignar And, Stalin? Article TN Elections 2021

The last thing anyone would want is a controversy that could start with one’s name! (The controversy that surrounds M K Stalin till date). Stalin would have been named 'Ayyadurai', 'Ayya' from E V Ramasamy Periyar and 'Durai' from C N Annadurai both of whom had chiselled the late Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. But, the news of the sudden demise of the Soviet Union leader, Joseph Stalin, prompted Karunanidhi to name his second son with Dhayalu Ammal as 'Stalin' which raised many eyebrows even at that point of time!

Having taken an early plunge into politics at an age of 14, Stalin rose through the ranks of the DMK party from being arrested in the controversial MISA act in 1976 during the emergency period to becoming the youth wing secretary of the DMK party in 1984. Being a star kid was never going to be a cake walk and Stalin was handed his first defeat in his very first election representing Thousand lights assembly constituency in 1984. The election was swept by the AIADMK following the sympathy wave created by Indira Gandhi’s assassination and MGR’s illness.

Stalin was the first in many. He became the first directly elected Mayor of Chennai, a post he held from 1996 up to 2002 contributing significantly towards improving the infrastructure of the city and nurturing his pet project 'Singara Chennai'. He followed it up by becoming the first Deputy Chief Minister of TN, a post his father had carved out in 2009 sending strong signals that Stalin was his heir apparently. He became the leader of the opposition in 2016 heading the strongest opposition in the TN assembly. 

Stalin proudly claims to have been an ardent learner from the Dravidian stalwarts - Periyar, Anna, Karunanidhi and MGR; imbibing the principles of Dravidian movement from close proximity. Today, in the absence of two most charismatic leaders who dominated the Tamil Nadu politics for over half a century, TN is looking for the next visionary in various personas. After the demise of the late CM, J Jayalalitha and M Karunanidhi, the people of TN were thrown several political surprises in the form of EPS, OPS, Rajinikant, Sasikala, Kamal Haasan, Sagayam. But the metamorphosis of the Dravidian movement and creations of Anna, MGR and Karunanidhi were never an overnight phenomenon.
Of late, great interest has been attached to the Dravidian model of development in TN. Several entrepreneurs like Suresh Sambandam have pointed out how the Dravidian model with its foundations on caste annihilation, self-respect, social justice, equitable growth and self-rule was the reason behind Tamil Nadu becoming the No.1 state in the GER index among large states in the country. Tamil Nadu boasts of development in both human and economic indexes unparalleled by any other state in the country. As a testament to its social development index, Tamil Nadu has the highest number of Dalit entrepreneurs in the country, a development attributed to the Dravidian movement. Reaping rich economic and social benefits from the Dravidian movement explains why it will flourish and stay relevant even today.

Periyar, Anna, Kalaignar And, Stalin? Article TN Elections 2021

Analysing how Tamil Nadu has bucked the trend during the last two parliamentary elections will give a clearer picture on this! The 2014 parliamentary election saw the “Modi wave” sweeping across the nation. However, it became a dud when it arrived Tamil Nadu. AIADMK led by J Jayalalitha won 37 of the 39 seats and BJP got a lone seat from Kanyakumari. Though the neighbouring state of Kerala also bucked the Modi wave, BJP established itself as a strong alternative to the Congress-Communist parties with over 10% vote share in Kerala compared to 5.56 % in Tamil Nadu.

If 2014 saw a 'Modi wave', then 2019 saw the 'Modi Tsunami' with the BJP gaining an absolute majority to form the government on its won with 303 seats. But as if reaffirming the stand of Tamils, TN bucked the trend again and the DMK led front won a massive 38 out of the 39 seats and the lone seat was bagged by O P Ravindran, son of Deputy CM O Pannerselvam. 

2019 was the first election in Tamil Nadu in the absence of the two political stalwarts - M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalitha. While the DMK stood strongly behind M K Stalin, the AIADMK evolved into in its own way by having two heads - EPS and OPS, at top to lead the party! For the critics who had labelled M K Stalin as politically insignificant, this was his only chance to prove himself before the TN state assembly elections in 2021. M K Stalin has been widely credited for cobbling together a winning alliance comprising of the INC, VKC, MDMK, CPI (M), CPI, IUML, KMDK and IJK. Though critics point out that Stalin forgave more seats to INC, it is expected that he will bargain hard for the 2021 TN state assembly elections. 

Stalin is no Karunanidhi just as Karunanidhi was no Anna! Let us stop the comparison there! 'Kalaingar' as M. Karunanidhi is fondly called, was someone who had an illustrious life donning many hats, as a writer, poet, lyricist, politician and is often credited as the witty Chanakya of TN politics. Haunted by the drubbing DMK received in 2016 assembly election, when most exit polls predicted a clear victory for DMK, it missed the mark by a whisker, DMK under Stalin has been proactive for the 2021 assembly elections. He has utilized innovative campaigns with slogans - 'Stalin thaan vararu, vidiyala thara poraru', meaning, 'Stalin is going to win and bring a new dawn!' Employing the concept of positive affirmation, he has been able to motivate the party cadres who are desperate to come to power for the past 10 years.

Periyar, Anna, Kalaignar And, Stalin? Article TN Elections 2021

The seeds of Tamil pride and protest against Hindi imposition by the Centre had been sown deep in the minds of Tamils since 1937. It was no surprise that 'Hindi Theriyadu Poda' clothing became a rage in Tamil Nadu last year. But what raised the eyebrows were that the neighbouring state of Karnataka too embraced it with its own version - 'Hindi Gothilla'. The Dravidian party had instilled a spirit of self-respect and state autonomy beyond its borders of Tamil Nadu. In 2019, the DMK vehemently opposed a clause in the new education policy which made Hindi mandatory. AIADMK was also quick to follow the suit and the Centre had to roll back its decision. Similarly, the Indian Railway's GDCE (General Departmental Competitive Examination) examinations for promotions saw 5000 people writing the exams out of which 3000 were from TN. However, only 5 from TN got selected in the exams. It was Stalin who had highlighted the 'systematic discrimination' and rallied all his MPs to the cause. Since the exams were conducted only in English and Hindi, the Tamils were not in a level playing field and losing their promotions. The railway ministry acted swiftly and announced that the exams would be held in all the regional languages henceforth, adding another victory to the Dravidian party's effort to safeguard the state rights.

The Dravidian politics which was formed on the basis of rational thinking and de-bunking caste and religious discrimination needs to stand united in its fight against religious polarizations. 

This perhaps brings us back to the question whether the people of Tamil Nadu will pass the baton of Dravidian politics to flourish under Stalin.

The writer, Chythenyen, is a graduate with masters in Political Science from Madurai Kamaraj University and with over 10 years of experience in social and environmental activism.

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the above article is purely of author's and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints and official policies of Behindwoods.

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