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Tamil Nadu polls: A trendsetter in Dravidian politics

Tamil Nadu polls: A trendsetter in Dravidian politics
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Tamil Nadu polls: A trendsetter in Dravidian politics

Highlights

Tamil Nadu has got used to being seen as an alien entity of sorts among the Indian States

Tamil Nadu has got used to being seen as an alien entity of sorts among the Indian States. Especially in south India where the other four states have shown notable shifts in governance models, political ideologies and the continuing presence of national parties as a counterfoil to the regional variations. Indeed, the region, which was till long the gateway to the southern peninsula had pioneered every political trend which was replicated in its neighbouring territories, from film stars ascending the political throne to rabid regionalism being a recurrent attraction, apart from being an alternative choice for the voters.

In 2021, with the erstwhile icons of the Dravidian movement like M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa missing in action, their successors like M K Stalin and E K Palaniswamy are leading the campaign trails in association with alliance parties who have tagged along as ever. The April 6 elections are less than three weeks away but the campaigning is yet to attain a ferocity which typically characterises elections in this part of the country.

At present, among the five States that are going to polls, the electoral battle of Mamata Banerjee versus BJP is the leading media attraction. On their own, however, political pundits have already come to the conclusion that it is surely the turn of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) to grab victory this time around. The outcome, according to them, is primarily owing to the scourge of anti-incumbency which the AIADMK government is bound to experience. Then there are other reasons about Stalin's political pedigree, Prashant Kishor's dynamic strategising of the campaigning and the ethnic counterattack of the pure Tamilian sentiment, pushing back the looming north Indian, Sanatana party BJP.

While granting that the first round of surveys and exit polls are clearly in favour of the older Dravidian party, the middle-of-the-road and ostensibly neutral media entities are still willing to wait and watch. The AIADMK, which was supposed to have been a has-been, post- Jayalalithaa's demise, has actually survived and even flourished under the rule of the unknown E K Palaniswamy (EPS). Like Naveen Patnaik, the inexperienced Chief Minister of Odisha who was constantly hounded unsuccessfully by the Congress first and BJP later and who has survived for more than two decades without a clear challenger, EPS has beaten back enemies within and outside his party and has managed to wield power well and carve a niche as a performer.

With alliances in place and the manifestos promising a whopping lot of freebies and waivers, both the parties have used up the traditional methods of political warfare as of now. Analysts also point out that no technique is infallible in Indian elections and this includes stitching together rainbow coalitions and thereby aspiring to woo and win over various caste and religious groups. Newbies like Kamal Haasan and language fanatics like Seeman too have brightened the campaign horizon with their USPs, which seem novel but are untested as vote magnets.

All the same, with the Centre in a win-win situation (as the tradition of Dravidian politics has been more of a 'frenemy' like existence with Delhi all these five decades) and the Tamil State keen to maintain its momentum and human development indices, hardcore politics is a surety from hereon. With the diminished roleplays of cine stars like Vijayakanth and Sarathkumar (not to speak of the deserter Rajinikanth) who have read the writing on the wall, the celluloid make-believe may cease to exist as a trend in local politics from summer 2021. A welcome and progressive beginning for sure!

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