‘It is not going to be a fight between the AIADMK and the DMK; that fight is over.’
‘The fight is going to be between the BJP’s attempt to finish the Dravidian era and the DMK and the others trying to prevent the BJP from doing so.’
“The BJP wants to redefine Tamil Nadu politics; they want to bring an end to the Dravidian influence in ideology and politics,” Dr R Manivannan, head of the department of politics, University of Madras, tells Rediff.com‘s Shobha Warrier.
Do you feel petty politics played by the All India Anna DMK not allowing M Karunanidhi’s body to be buried next to C N Annadurai on the Marina marred the solemnity of the funeral? Was the AIADMK government’s action justifiable?
It is not justifiable at all and it was unwarranted. They pulled themselves down and, in the process, they elevated the fortunes of the DMK.
Karunanidhi was the senior-most leader in Tamil Nadu. He was not just another leader, but one who was in active politics for 50 years and one who had not lost a single election.
Do you feel the support for M K Stalin will increase because the AIADMK tried not to fulfil Karunanidhi’s wish to be buried next to his mentor?
Whether support for Stalin is visible or not, he has been a sober, stable but steady person.
Yes, this incident has given him a boost, the energy to fight back.
Also, going by the life and struggles of Karunanidhi himself, he fought his last battle even after his death.
The Tamil Nadu government and the party lead by EPS (Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami) and OPS (Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam) suddenly let themselves down by this mean act.
Now that both Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa are no more, do you feel there is a real leadership vacuum in Tamil Nadu?
When there is a huge transition, like the passing away of one generation of leaders like Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, there will be a huge vacuum, both political and ideological.
We have to face the passing away of tall leaders at some time or the other and new leaders emerging.
But the fact is that you don’t have a new crop of leaders in both the parties.
The AIADMK is completely in shambles. I only see a new leader in one of the factions of the AIADMK: T T V Dinakaran.
Can Dinakaran emerge as a strong leader in Tamil Nadu?
He is already one of the leaders leading a faction which is seemingly more influential than the EPS and OPS faction.
EPS and OPS are seen in public because they are in power and not otherwise.
As soon as they lose power, not even one-third of the party members will stay with them.
Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth are also trying to fill the vacuum. How successful will they be?
I don’t see Kamal Haasan and Rajinikath as the alternative to the departed leaders.
In civil society, people are fighting for new voices and forces.
In the Indian political system and electoral politics, you not only need just voices, but also money to run a party and fight elections.
Therefore, society is very weak in translating social power into political power in Indian politics. Tamil Nadu also faces the same situation.
So, we are left with the choice of re-generating the DMK or another political formation.
Under the present circumstances, the DMK is seemingly much stronger than the others in terms of re-energising itself.
Do you feel in the present circumstances, the Dravidian ideology followed by Annadurai and Karunanidhi will no longer be relevant?
In the so-called modern times, when a party like the BJP can be in power at the Centre following the ideology of Hindutva and Hindu nationalism, why not Dravidian parties with the ideology of social justice and social democracy?
This is much more progressive than the BJP’s social ideology.
The real fight is going to be between the BJP-led coalition and the DMK-led coalition.
That is how I see the next trend emerging in Tamil Nadu. Other formations can be either with these coalitions or remain as a third force.
The BJP wants to redefine Tamil Nadu’s politics; they want to bring an end to the Dravidian influence in ideology and politics.
So, the Dravidian parties see the BJP not only as a threat but also as an antithesis to the Dravidian orientation.
Do you feel the Dravidian ideology becomes all the more relevant now?
Exactly. Dravidian ideology is much more important today not only because of the passing away of Karunanidhi, but also because of the emergence of the BJP.
Will leaders like Stalin be able to follow the Dravidian ideology as strongly as Karunanidhi did?
Karunanidhi did not follow Dravidian ideology strongly in the last 20 years. One has to be honest about it.
He was very strong on social justice and on reservations, but his other priorities towards his family made him compromise on the core values of Dravidian ideology.
Do you feel the corruption charges and love for his family will overshadow his image as a social reformer?
Actually, it overshadowed him.
After the 2011 elections, if Jayalalitha had good leaders to succeed, I don’t think the DMK would have resurfaced.
By then, the DMK was ideologically and politically at the end of the road. Since there was no alternative, people had to go back to the DMK.
We didn’t want to see Dravidian ideology and Dravidian political future only in the hands of the DMK.
But the social base of this ideology — Dravidian identity and Dravidian discourse — is deep rooted for more than 200, 300 years.
Therefore, the BJP strategy of completely reorienting and bringing in a new orientation to Tamil Nadu politics is going to be very challenging.
That is why I see these two as the main contenders for the political space in Tamil Nadu.
If corruption is the yardstick to remember Indian politicians, a lot of Indian politicians will be remembered.
We somehow never qualify cleanliness as an important characteristic of our political leadership. That’s why we will remember Karunanidhi for his role in the social justice movement and language movement in Tamil Nadu and his role in forming coalitions at the Centre.
Along with that, he will be remembered for the enormity of corruption when in power.
The fact is, India is no less corrupt than Karunanidhi.
And dynastic politics runs not only in Tamil Nadu, but throughout the country.
You can see it from the Nehru family to Karunanidhi’s family.
In the case of Nehru’s family, you see that succession within the family is intact.
In Karunanidhi’s case, he had widened the base. That is the only difference.
Corruption and dynastic politics are two sides of the same coin for all of them.
What will be his legacy?
He will be remembered as a person who spoke for the state in critical times.
Karunanidhi was a very good strategist and a very good manipulator. He was also a very good team man. He could work with people with whom disagreed also.
After all the anti-Congressism, he worked with the Congress; he supported Indira Gandhi in the 1970s itself.
He also worked with the BJP.
At the same time, he kept his ideological commitments intact and well-exemplified.
Do you see interesting times in Tamil Nadu politics ahead?
Tamil Nadu politics has been on a dead beat for the last three years. We had been going through hospitals and funerals and there was nothing interesting at all!
We are going through a natural, painful, transition.
In this painful transition, there is also a challenge to the ideological basis of Tamil Nadu politics. And that is what is much more interesting.
It is not going to be a fight between the AIADMK and the DMK; that fight is over.
The fight is going to be between the BJP’s attempt to finish the Dravidian era and the DMK and the others trying to prevent the BJP from doing so.
It is a kind of the old battle in a different form.
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