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  Opinion   Columnists  26 Mar 2024  G. Babu Jayakumar | DMK takes lead of anti-BJP bloc in South to repel communalism

G. Babu Jayakumar | DMK takes lead of anti-BJP bloc in South to repel communalism

Published : Mar 26, 2024, 12:51 am IST
Updated : Mar 26, 2024, 12:51 am IST

Exploring the Transformation of DMK's Ideology and Influence in the National Political Landscape

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin. (PTI File Image)
 Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin. (PTI File Image)

It might sound sardonic that the DMK, launched 75 years ago as a regional party with Tamil language assertion as a plank, is today at the vanguard of a nation-wide movement to vanquish the nationalistic Bharatiya Janata Party, popularly known as BJP, in league with the Congress party. But there is nothing ironic about it because that is the way politics and political agendas have evolved over the years. In its new found mission, the DMK, despite owing its origins to a cultivated collective animosity to the then ruling Congress, has now clasped hands with it to usher in a change.

Unlike the Congress whose fight with the BJP is confined to the electoral arena, perhaps just spilling over to the politico-ideological domain, the DMK is waging a multi-pronged war in the social, cultural, ideological, political and electoral spheres, emerging as the torchbearer for the anti-Hindutva coalition. Basically a social movement, the DMK’s forerunner, the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK), targeted caste and wanted its elimination. DK founder Periyar E.V. Ramasamy found religion, particularly Hinduism, to be the root of caste discrimination. This impelled him to set out to uproot it first.

Inheriting the same political thought, the DMK, though it decided to change society by gaining political power through elections, never gave up on its basic planks of social justice, rationalism, fight against caste discrimination, state autonomy and Tamil identity. So when the BJP rose on the national horizon as an all-encompassing political force, revealing its colours, it was the DMK that felt that everything the BJP did or wanted to do could knock the bottom out of its ideological moorings. The BJP, too, realised that its real enemy lurked in the southern State that was not only recalcitrant to fall in line with its ways but was rooted in a contrarian cultural mosaic.

For example, the communal card that the BJP played to win over swathes of other populations did not work in the State that otherwise had devotion steeped deep into its collective psyche. Then of course, the idea of a national language did not cut ice with the people of the State who took pride in their own language that they knew was the most ancient tongue and had a rich literary heritage. 

Even the so-called administrative and other reforms expounded by the BJP made no impact as the state had been the pioneer in implementing most of those envisaged changes under the successive regimes of parties spawned by the Dravidian movement.

The party from another state, having nothing new to offer locally other than threatening to reduce the primacy of their language and tamper with their culture and tradition, was thus cold shouldered by the people, despite the massive, multi-level publicity blitzkriegs that promised a utopia. That set the alarm bells ringing and the firefighters and strategists of the BJP tried to push the envelope, prompting those opposed to the BJP’s rise to seek ways to counter it. And they found in Tamil Nadu the rallying point. It was then that M.K. Stalin provided them all a fulcrum for fighting a force they wanted to eliminate.

Stalin was the first to announce Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and it was he who provided platforms for leaders opposed to the BJP to come together then. Even as the present I.N.D.I.A. coalition was taking shape, Stalin guided the initiative, making himself, his party and its leaders as targets of attacks. But his endurance ensured that the Congress remained the axis for Opposition unity, earning the wrath of the BJP that wanted to weaken the DMK within its own base. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling again and again to the State in hopes of breaking into the Dravidian stronghold, only to hit a cul-de-sac. Earlier, the BJP had picked up dirty tricks from its stacked arsenal and, lo and behold, unleashed a Governor to thwart anything the State might try out.

The DMK took on the Governor legally, making him bite the dust. That put the BJP in a quandary since every fiasco of the Governor’s moves to circumvent the Constitution or cock a snook at democracy reflected badly on it. With the courts ensuring that a parallel government was not run from the Raj Bhavan, Tamil Nadu became the model State for all those out to defeat the designs of Governors specially anointed to teach insubordinate state governments a lesson and also bring them around. However, Tamil Nadu has always been a role model for other States and even the nation on many fronts.

As a pioneer in social justice, Tamil Nadu was the first to bring in reservation for Other Backward Castes, much before Mandal came in, and introduced reforms like property rights for women, to name just a few, with the DMK always playing a pivotal role. 

Even all regional languages were saved by the DMK’s historic ‘Mozhi Por’ (Language War) in 1965, which in fact paved the way for that party to capture power in the State. Later on, the DMK had been part of the National Front government in 1989-91 and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had played a crucial role in forming the UPA, unseating the BJP from power in 2004. It is just natural that Karunanidhi’s son is treading on the father’s footprints.

Tags: dmk, chief minister m.k. stalin, karunanidhi