The DMK which was started on September 17, 1949 , celebrates 70 years of its existence at a time when it is battling for relevance in Tamil Nadu. The party, however, has caught a lucky break in Amit Shah’s idea of one nation, one language that gives it an issue it can fight for in the state
When Union home minister and BJP president Amit Shah gave the call to make Hindi the language of Indian identity globally, there may have been a few voices of gratitude in the DMK, the party that is vehemently opposed to the BJP and Shah's suggestions.
Suddenly, the party, which has been struggling for relevance, has got an issue that it can identify with.
Though the DMK was started on September 17, 1949 (70 years old), the party, an offshoot from the Dravidian social organisation DK, could actually find its political voice and resonance in the 60s with the anti-Hindi movement that proved to be a tipping point in the state's history.
Riding the crest of the anti-Hindi sentiments in the state then, the DMK, led by its charismatic leader CN Annadurai, for the first time ever, unseated the Congress and formed the government in the state in 1967. From then on, only the two Dravidian variants --- the DMK and the AIADMK - have been able to rule the state. And it is unlikely that a national party will get to form the government in the state anytime soon.
While both the main national parties - the BJP and the Congress - don't enjoy any great credibility in the state, it is equally a fact that both the DMK and the AIADMK also no longer hold that much hold among the masses. If anything, the anti-AIADMK plank is the major driving force for the DMK, and for the AIADMK, it's vice-versa. The two parties no longer seem to represent or stand for any particular ideology. Across time, both have had alliances with the Congress and the BJP. And there is one value that they seem to represent any longer.
Between the two Dravidian parties, the DMK was the one which used to be closer to the original ideals for which it was started. But again, over time, the DMK has diluted its ideological commitments for political expediency and personal convenience.
Its anti-Brahminical rhetoric no more carries the moral force as the Brahmins have been joined by many intermediary castes at the top of the social totem in the state. Of course, the Dalits continue to be suppressed, but despite the projection to the contrary, right from the days of EV Ramasamy Naicker in DMK, the Dravidian movement never really included Dalits' uplift in its folds.
(Back in the early 2000s the then young Dalit leaders like Thirumavalavan and Ravikumar had spoken and written at length at how Periyar's Dravidian ideology had little to no space for the scheduled castes and tribes. But now they have been politically co-opted and have become DMK's political fellow travellers.)
Anyway, as it turns 70, the DMK is not able to hold any appeal to the young voters and the new generation. Though they are not any real political force as yet, there is a genuine fear that parties like Seeman's Naam Tamilar and Kamal Haasan's Makkal Neethi Maiam have more connect with the youngsters for varied reasons.
The DMK's other problem is its anti-Hindu stance, which often times is venomous and rabid. The DMK, historically, has made anti-Hindu noises. Even though it is avowedly part of its atheistic tenets, the DMK has never made bold to target any other religion. In that sense, its secularism is diabolically dubious. But when M Karunanidhi was at the helm he had the personal articulation skills and ideological heft to deliver the barbs as some kind of a message. When it comes from its current president MK Stalin, who has shown no redeeming ability to make it seem any better, the anti-Hindu jibes seem crude, crass and insulting.
And that is alienating the DMK from the public, bulk of which subscribes to some kind of god. It is a reality that the Dravidian leaders are already aware of. A video clip of MDMK's Vaiko is now doing the rounds in which he openly tells the Dravidian leaders to give up their anti-Hindu stand. "This has to be done to counter the rise of the Hindutva forces (though he doesn't use the word Hindutva directly)," Vaiko says.
Vaiko's suggestion makes it clear that the DMK and the Dravidian movement as such is looking for relevance and its anti-Hindu approach will finish it off.
The DMK-led alliance did remarkably well in the general elections in the state mainly due to the pronounced anti-NDA (BJP) mood in the state. The DMK not able to reproduce the same magic in the Assembly byelections (in which the BJP was not a factor) makes it clear that the party is devoid of issues to identify with sincerely. In a sense, the DMK, with its pro BCs and Muslims outlook, runs the risk of meeting the same fate as that of the SP in UP.
Stalin as the party leader has not inspired much confidence. But it is also a fact there is none in the party other than him to lead it now. But his family-centric, nepotistic ways will hurt the party in the long run.
It is in such a situation, Shah seems to have given the DMK a major break with his contentious comments on Hindi. It was almost a birthday gift to the party.
The DMK has already taken the lead and is set to launch a series of protest meets across the state on September 20. It will raise the old bogey of language imposition and Hindi cultural hegemony. Old rhetorics from 50 years ago will be dusted off from the shelves and put to use from political platforms.
In that sense, it is yesterday once more for the DMK.
But what of the future? Stalin needs to understand that DMK cannot hope to count on Shah always.
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Last Updated 17, Sep 2019, 8:59 PM