People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 19, 2009


Tamilnadu Surges Ahead  Towards A Secular Alternative

W R Varada Rajan

TAMILNADU and its adjoining union territory Puducherry are going to polls in the final phase of the general elections to the 15th Lok Sabha on May 13, 2009. The battle lines have been drawn and the democratic secular forces led by the AIADMK, CPI(M), CPI, PMK and MDMK have forged a formidable alliance sharing the 40 seats in Tamilnadu and Puducherry as against a tottering DMK-Congress alliance and the loner BJP. The message is clear and unambiguous. The people of Tamilnadu and Puducherry will respond to the clarion call for installing a secular alternative government at the centre.

In fact it was the Congress which was engaging in backroom manoeuvres to rope in the actor Vijayakanth's Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazgagam (DMDK) offering him all sorts of allurements, as publicly disclosed by Vijayakanth himself. The Congress leadership, both at the state and all India level, bent backwards to bring about bonhomie between the DMK and the PMK, which had been engaged in a war of words for several months now. On April 2, the founder leader of the PMK announced his formal parting of ways with the UPA dispensation and entered into a seat sharing arrangement with the AIADMK. The two ministers from the PMK in the Manmohan Singh government, Anbumani Ramadoss and R Velu followed it up with their resignations. This was a double jolt for the Congress which was reeling under the shock waves administered by the tie-up with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh falling apart, Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan joining hands leaving the Congress in the lurch in Bihar and the Jharkhand alliance with the JMM almost on verge of breaking.

The alliance between the DMK and the Congress is itself on a thin edge. When Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Congress high command in-charge of the state party visited Chennai a couple of weeks ago, the majority of the party MLAs and MPs reportedly urged him to dump the DMK and make efforts for an electoral alliance with the AIADMK. This prompted the DMK chief Karunanidhi to write an open letter to his party men in which he had hoped the Congressmen in the state would recall the diatribe resorted to by Jayalalitha against the Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. The AIADMK leader Jayalalitha quickly rebuffed both the Congress and the DMK, stating that she had only cautioned the Congress not to get into the quicksand along with the DMK, which was facing the wrath of the people for its anti-people activities, adding, ''I never invited the Congress to come back to the AIADMK alliance.''

The Congress leaders in Tamilnadu were making a hue and cry over the Vidudhali Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) continuing in the DMK alliance citing the reason that its leader Thirumavalavan was vociferously attacking Sonia Gandhi on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue and his party had burnt the effigy of Sonia Gandhi during demonstrations all over the state. The DMK, which is facing growing isolation, was unwilling to part company with the VCK, as the latter was considered to be having some dalit vote pockets. As usual, the local Congressmen ended their murmur of protest with the Congress high command toeing the DMK line. In the end the DMK decided to contest 21 seats, leaving 16 (including the Puducherry constituency) for the Congress, 2 for the VCK and 1 for the IUML. It is a known fact that neither the Congress nor the DMK has much love lost between them and it is at best a marriage of convenience as the DMK, which does not command an absolute majority in the Tamilnadu assembly, needed the support of the 36 Congress MLAs for the Karunanidhi government to survive in the state.

On the other side, the electoral front led by the AIADMK emerged much stronger with the smooth conclusion of the seat sharing arrangements for the 40 seats in Tamilnadu and Puducherry. The AIADMK is contesting 23 seats, the PMK 7, the MDMK 4, the CPI(M) 3 and the CPI 3. All the parties in this electoral front have announced their candidates and have taken a head start in the election campaign. The constituencies are bursting with activity and the cadres of the front parties are moving in unison. The state wide campaign was formally launched on April 16 with a mass rally addressed by the AIADMK leader Jayalalitha along with the CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan, Ramadoss of PMK, Vaiko of MDMK, besides N Varadharajan and T Pandian the state secretaries of the CPI(M) and CPI. All the 40 candidates appeared together at the mass rally.

The CPI(M) is contesting three seats and has announced its candidates: P Mohan in Madurai; A V Bellarmine in Kaniakumari (both sitting MPs); and P R Natarajan in Coimbatore. The CPI candidates are: T Pandian in North Chennai; M Selvaraj in Nagapattinam and Lingam in Tenkasi. The six constituencies are Left bastions and the CPI(M) and the CPI have a mass base and support among the workers and peasants in the area.

The DMK announced its list of 21 candidates on April 5, 2009. The VCK and the IUML followed suit. But the Congress is struggling hard to settle the claims of the quarrelling factions in the state. The aspirants for seats as well as the state leadership of the Congress are camping in Delhi for weeks together and uncertainty prevails in its camp till the time of this report going to press.

The BJP on its part tried to sew up an alliance with any party which was willing to declare its support for Advani as a prime ministerial candidate. It tried to woo the AIADMK in vain, as the AIADMK leader Jayalalitha clearly stated her decision to join hands with the Left. Then the BJP tried to rope in the DMDK, which after protracted dialogue with the other seekers, opted to go it alone in the elections. The BJP made advances towards two other political outfits floated by film actors Sarath Kumar and Kartik but both of them chose to keep a safe distance from the communal force. Thus, with the grapes having turned soar, the BJP is fighting the elections on its own and has announced candidates for 10 Lok Sabha seats for now.

The self styled prime minister-in-waiting of the BJP, L K Advani, while passing through Coimbatore on April 12, 2009, told media persons accompanying him on a campaign trip to Kerala that his emissaries were in touch with Jayalalitha for a post-poll alliance to form the government at the centre. The very next day AIADMK general secretary Jayalalitha denied reports in certain sections of the media that she was holding talks with the Bharatiya Janata Party for a post-poll tie-up. “The AIADMK is not conducting talks with any political party for a possible post-poll alliance,” she said in a statement. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) had entered into an alliance with the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for the Lok Sabha election, she added. In an interview to a news channel, she further elaborated that the AIADMK favoured a non-Congress, non-BJP government at the centre. She also ended the media hype over her entertaining prime ministerial ambitions.

In the last (14th) Lok Sabha polls the percentage of votes secured by the parties are as under: AIADMK - 29.7 per cent; PMK - 6.7 per cent; MDMK - 5.8 per cent and the CPI(M) & CPI - 5.9 per cent. On the other hand the percentage of votes secured by the DMK was 24.6 per cent and the Congress 14.4 per cent. Others including the BJP had polled 12.9 per cent. Though there is a dramatic change in the line up of political parties much different from the pattern of alliance in 2004, these voting figures are indicative of the relative strength of the AIADMK led front over the DMK-Congress alliance.

But the woes for the DMK led front are too many to count. There is growing discontent and resentment among the people of Tamilnadu against the anti-people policies of the central and state governments. Price rise, international economic crisis and its consequential industrial slowdown and job losses, denial of democratic and trade union rights, horrors of power cut and above all the wave of anger against the failure of the central and state governments to effectively intervene in the horrendous situation in neighbouring Sri Lanka, where a grave humanitarian disaster is threatening to burst because of the ongoing armed conflict continuing there. All these issues are haunting the DMK-Congress alliance. The DMK has for the last several months been trying to upstage others in championing the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils promising to bring about a ceasefire there. But the people of Tamilnadu by and large perceive that the DMK is playing the game of 'running with the hare and hunting with the hound'.

Tamilnadu and Puducherry will give a fitting reply to the divisive policies of the communal BJP as well as the anti-people, pro-rich liberalisation policies of the Congress in all the 40 constituencies, lending a giant helping hand in the ongoing efforts to install a secular non-BJP, non-Congress alternative government at the centre.