Tamil Nadu’s principal opposition party, the DMK, appears to be tying itself in knots one after another. The recent mess which has pushed the party into a defensive mode is casteist slurs by two of its senior leaders and sitting MPs. The first one was by DMK’s Organisational Secretary RS.Bharathy and the second one by Chennai Central MP Dayanidhi Maran.
On 14 February, in an indoor meeting, RS Bharathy, said, it was only due to the alms by Dravidian parties, there are a few High Court judges in higher judiciary today. It is still unclear, how and why the video of an DMK indoor meeting was leaked and who is responsible. This video went viral in social media following which complaints were registered in various police stations across the state.
Chennai city police registered an FIR in this regard. Bharathy, further added salt to the injury by giving an interview to Vikatan that, “He has employed a Harijan as his PA, a Harijan as his Driver and a Harijan as his maid”. This precipitated the already burning controversy and the BJP took up the issue and started painting DMK as an anti-Dalit party.
Cut to May, Central Madras constituency MP Dayanidhi Maran, after a meeting with TN Chief Secretary spoke before the press about the ill-treatment meted out to MPs by the Chief Secretary. To drive home a point strongly, he said, “we were ill-treated by the CS. Are we scheduled castes ?”. In this instance too based on a complaint from a fringe Hindu outfit, an FIR was registered. Following the arrest of RS.Bharathy in the early hours of Saturday, Dayanidhi Maran and TR.Balu moved an urgent bail petition before the Madras High Court and got interim protection till 29th May.
There is no iota of doubt that both these cases will not stand scrutiny before a trial court. However, the political perception it has created has placed DMK in an unenviable position. The sad part is the principal opposition party had no clue about what’s going on.
BJP has all over the country put religious polarization for electoral purposes. Communal riots and religious hatred and the “Hindus Khatre Main Hain” is a time tested policy for the BJP. However, this strategy has not yielded much dividends in the southern states, particularly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu which is the origin of Dravidian politics has never given room for communal riots. Even after the demolition of babri masjid, while there were Hindu-Muslim riots across the country, Tamil Nadu was totally peaceful. Particularly, after the gruesome 1998 Coimbatore bomb blast, except some minor incidents, Tamil Nadu remained largely peaceful.
So, the BJP’s election planner Amit Shah decided to adopt a different strategy for Tamil Nadu as early as 2015. When Amit Shah attend a caste outfit event organized by Pallars, a dominant SC community in TN, many were surprised. Analysts were wondering why Amit Shah who is riding on a success wave attends an event hosted by a caste outfit. However, Amit Shah’s focus was clear. He did not waver. And the subsequent 2016 and 2019 elections in Tamil Nadu did not change his focus. It seems he had set his eye on 2021 polls much earlier.
After the spectacular performance of DMK alliance in 2019 polls, the BJP’s attacks on DMK grew manifold. Most of the attacks were not by the party directly but by its proxies and fringe fronts. Just days after a one on one meeting with PM Modi in Delhi, the first salvo was fired by BJP’s alliance partner Dr.Ramadoss when he alleged that DMK organ Murasoli’s building was built on an encroached Panchami land.
A complaint followed and the Vice Chairman of National SC/ST Commission Murugan entered into the picture swiftly. He immediately ordered an enquiry, shot off several letters to the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary and conducted personal inquiry in Chennai. The DMK was swift to rebut this charge and also moved the court to quash the inquiry. But, the controversy refuse to die down even today.
After Tamilisai Soundarrajan was appointed as Telengana governor in September 2019, the post of TN BJP President was lying vacant till the second week of March this year. The names of many popular BJP leaders were doing the rounds for the coveted post. But, Amit Shah chose Murugan, who was hitherto unknown to even several BJP leaders as TN BJP President which surprised many. Murugan comes from Arundhatiyar community which remains a suppressed community even today. Sources in RSS assert, Murugan was handpicked by Amit Shah himself after he rejected almost a dozen names recommended.
Amit Shah and BJP’s top brass are of the opinion that to create a dent in DMK’s vote bank, wooing away Dalits would be an effective strategy. DMK MP and senior counsel NR.Elango too echoed this view. Speaking to savukku, Elango said, “the arrest of senior leader RS.Bharathy today and registration of FIR against party MP Dayanidhi Maran is only with a view to turn the dalit people away from DMK and split their votes”.
VP.Duraisamy, a former DMK MP and a member of Arundhathiyar community, was too keen for an Rajya Sabha nomination. But, DMK chose another Arundhathiyar and nominated Andhiyur Selvaraj. VP.Duraisamy, was thoroughly upset. By this time, BJP had established contacts with Duraisamy which the DMK high command seemed to be ignorantly unaware. On 18th May Duraisamy called on TN BJP President Murugan at BJP state hqrs which came as a bolt out of the blue to DMK. Stalin quickly sacked VP.Duraisamy from the post of Deputy General Secretary. Duraisamy without waiting, joined the BJP immediately.
Duraisamy may not be a popular vote catcher. He may not be in a position to win a local body election independently. But his exit from the party has set tongues wagging in Tamil Nadu’s political circles about DMK’s mismanagement. As said earlier, perception in politics matters a lot.
DMK which grew from a self-respect movement and which claims to have fought for caste annihilation, is now on the defensive, fighting hard to establish its ‘pro-dalit’ credentials.
Anyone with a basic knowledge of TN politics will understand that the arrest of RS.Bharathy is sheer politics. With elections just 10 months away, the DMK cannot expect its arch rival ADMK to extend a red carpet welcome for swearing in ceremony. With the ADMK party and the government now just a string puppet in the hands of BJP due to the absence of a powerful leader, DMK should have geared up to face multiple attacks.
However, the party doesn’t seem to have any counter strategy. The RS Bharathy controversy could have been ended immediately by a firm public condemnation by DMK President MK.Stalin. However, he allowed RS.Bharathy to come out with a lame explanation which did not cut much ice. A strict public condemnation would have cautioned other DMK leaders to exercise caution in their public utterances. But Stalin failed to exercise firmness and wavered. This led to further precipitation of the issue by RS.Bharathy and a fresh round of controversy by Dayanidhi Maran.
“DMK runs a political party and not a fringe dalit outfit. We have to take into account various caste combinations and permutations to win an election. We can’t be seen as a pro-dalit party which would consolidate all non-dalit castes against DMK. We are not in a position to lose one more election. Leadership has to take into account the ground realities. Winning alone counts in an election” said a senior DMK leader, who did not wished to be quoted.
Discussing about the merits of the case, Senior Advocate NR.Elango, who appeared for both Bharathy and Dayanidhi today said, “In complaints of such nature the statements made by the accused have to be read together. State cannot pick and choose portions from a statement according to their convenience to fix an accused.
RS.Bharathy is the complainant in most of the corruption complaints against CM Edappadi Palanisamy, Dy CM O.Panneerselvam, Ministers SP.Velumani, etc. It is quite obvious that this arrest is politically motivated” said Elango.
The corruption charge against the Chief Minister Edappadi should have been the focal point in DMK’s rebuttal. Actually, it was the CM Edappadi Palanisamy who was on the defensive today, almost disowning the Tamil Nadu police. Speaking to media today in Salem, he said, “Government has nothing to do with the arrest of RS.Bharathy. It is the police which took action”.
DMK should have picked this statement and went hammer and tongs against EPS. They should have used the complaint filed by RS Bharathy against CM Edappadi Palanisamy alone as motive for Bharathy’s arrest early on Saturday.
“During the time of pandemic, when the state is struggling due to huge debts and lack of funds, but CM Edappadi Palanisamy is bent upon to award a 1300 crore highway maintenance contract to his favoured contractors. The Highway contractors have filed 3500 page documents alleging huge corruption in Madras High Court. The High Court is scheduled to hear the petition in this regard on 27th of March. Further, RS.Bharathy is also likely to move the High Court seeking a comprehensive probe, into the humongous corruption in the 1300 crore contract in Thanjavur division alone. CM want to stifle RS.Bharathy and threaten him who plans to award the tender to his favoured contractor on 29th May. This is the only reason he is arrested.” This should have been the approach of DMK to RS.Bharathy’s arrest.
However, DMK went on the defensive. Unusually, Stalin issued two statements on the same issue in one day. That apart, DMK MP A.Raja also issued a lengthy statement. The nervousness of the DMK was quite palpable. This clearly shows they did not expect an attack like this and were caught off-guard.
The DMK perfectly took the bait well laid by Amit Shah.
A senior Delhi based journalist, wishing anonymity, had this to say.
“As some political analysts have pointed out, the upcoming 2021 Assembly elections is going to be the toughest election for the DMK. Everything about the DMK party will be put to test during the election season. It won’t be a surprise, if some top leaders switch their loyalties and join other political parties ahead of the election.
Ahead of 2021 polls, anything can happen and the big question is – Is DMK ready to tackle any kind of eventuality?
The answer is a simple, no. The DMK’s biggest disadvantage is it does not have a leader like Karunanidhi at the helm. Victory or defeat, the responsibility is squarely on the shoulders of MK Stalin. He can’t afford to make a mistake or lose this opportunity.
The DMK is not fighting AIADMK alone. This election the DMK is up against the mighty BJP, Modi, Amit Shah, RSS, VHP, CBI, ED, IB, Income Tax Dept, EC, AIADMK, State govt machinery, State intelligence, police, media, social media and those opposing the DMK. It’s not a simple fight and it’s not going to be a cake walk either.
The DMK missed every opportunity to corner the TN govt at various occasions. In fact, the party allowed EPS-OPS Govt to stabilise itself so much that it has resulted in the daring arrest of a sitting Member of parliament and a senior functionary of the DMK. It shows how weak the DMK is and how it’s politics of ‘being nice to everyone’ is working in AIADMK’s favour.
The DMK party lacks imagination. They are hoping that a person like Prashant Kishore will show them the way. This is a wrong move. A corporate entity cannot decide the politics of the day. It has to be the DMK leader, along with his allies who should set the agenda. PK can strategize, help DMK in amplifying it’s message by using technology.
It was clear from day one that BJP is trying to portray DMK as anti-Dalit. The DMK took it very lightly and now they are paying a heavy price for it. These are not isolated incidents. There is a pattern and it’s being done in a methodical manner. The DMK and it’s leadership should understand that politics is everyday affair and it should not stop with just issuing statements. The leadership should ensure that the party is vibrant at all times ahead of election. Leaders may switch sides but a DMK worker will not let down the party. MK Stalin should invest more in the low level party worker than spending time with EV Velu, Ponmudi, et al.
AIADMK and BJP’s game plan for 2021 is to attack DMK from all sides. Rattle the leadership and weaken the spirit of the party. The attack is going to be unprecedented and from today’s RS Bharathi’s episode, one can clearly make out that the DMK is ill-prepared to handle the onslaught. The leadership lacks imagination and in such a scenario even 100 Prasanth Kishore’s can’t help the DMK.”
AIADMK is using the pandemic as a cover to target it’s arch rival DMK. This comes at a time when the state is heading for the big 2021 elections. With the arrest of DMK’s senior leader RS Bharathy, the AIADMK has made its first move and from now onwards the political fight is about to get bitter, dirty and disgusting. DMK should brace itself for attacks on multiple fronts on its basic ideology. The party will be portrayed as anti-Dalit, anti-National and anti-Hindu. There will be personal attacks on DMK leaders and their family members. BJP’s troll armies will try their best to demoralise the DMK and it’s alliance partners.
Instead of getting provoked, the DMK has to equip itself to face this new kind of war or face obliteration.