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The DMK has put itself on silent mode
The DMK has put itself on silent mode
Politicking

Why There Is A Radio Silence In Tamil Nadu Politics 

Apart from squabbles over the Chief Minister’s foreign trip, no issue of substance is being debated by political parties 

Sandhya Ravishankar

Sandhya Ravishankar

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin’s latest statement issued on Friday is a defence of his late father and political veteran M Karunanidhi. “Edappadi Palaniswami has no status to criticise late M Karunanidhi or his foreign trips,” stated Stalin.

This almost childlike squabble has been going on publicly since 28 August when Stalin issued his ‘arikkai’ (statement) alleging ulterior motives to Chief Minister and rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader Edappadi Palaniswami.

EPS, as Palaniswami is popularly known, hit back with jibes at Stalin’s private foreign trips and the griping continued.

EPS is back from his fortnight-long trip to the UK, US and Dubai. According to the government’s official release, 41 MoUs have been signed during the trip for investments to the tune of Rs 8830 crore. These, upon coming to fruition, are expected to provide employment to 37,300 people.

But apart from this talking point, the DMK does not seem to have much to say in terms of constructive and serious criticism. In fact, a radio silence appears to be in place in Tamil Nadu.

“There are fewer protests on issues in the past few months,” political analyst Aazhi Senthilnathan told The Lede. “It is not that there are no issues but there are no protests over these issues. There appears to be a silence, some kind of suppression.

Usually, DMK and any political party’s cadre get activated only when there are protests but there have been no protests in the past few months.

In the past two years, there was a lot of election activity, so now it will take another six months for the political activity to begin. It is a temporary lull,” he said.

The DMK staunchly denies claims of a lull from their end. “Every day we are raising issues about the economic status of the country, about the language imposition in railways and other important issues,” said TKS Elangovan, spokesperson of the DMK. “At the state level, we have been continuously talking about the foreign trips of the Chief Minister. They are vacation trips without any business purpose.”

Elangovan says that the perception of silence by the DMK on crucial issues is in large part due to the fact that the media – both regional and national - chooses not to carry dissenting voices.

“Media is not providing coverage and preferring to dilute strong criticism of the Centre. Even the criticism that social media carries, the public media does not carry,” he said.

The AIADMK on the other hand is confident that the DMK has no issues to raise, which is why they are criticising the Chief Minister’s foreign trip. “The opposition has nothing with which to criticise the government so they are turning every stone they can find to try and criticise us,” said Singai G Ramachandran, State Secretary of the IT Wing of the party. “A responsible opposition should have waited for the Chief Minister’s trip to get over and then seen whether he has done a good job or not and if there was anything lacking, he should have pointed it out. But even before the Chief Minister left, when his trip was announced itself, the DMK started criticising him. It shows that it is only political,” he said.

Analysts feel that the DMK too is in a wait and watch mode, perhaps worried about whether the BJP’s wrath will turn on their partymen next, after the Congress.

“There is also a possibility that the DMK is wary of the Centre. They may be silently waiting and watching due to the Centre targeting people like Chidambaram,” said political analyst Senthilnathan.

The DMK denies this too. “We are not wary or cautious. Why should we be? We have very strongly condemned the arrest of Chidambaram,” said TKS Elangovan.

But the silence is felt by most political watchers – a rare silence for a state like Tamil Nadu which is used to fiery statements, protests, political attacks and speeches between the two Dravidian parties.

In the midst of all this, it is EPS who appears to have got most comfortable in his bright blue shoes!

The Chief Minister makes an intriguing style statement in the US
The Chief Minister makes an intriguing style statement in the US

“From zero, he (EPS) has come to be viewed positively and I see that as a gain for him,” said political analyst Senthilnathan. “Politically he has stabilised. At the party level he has been accepted but I am not sure if he has been accepted by the people.

Maybe if he had brought about some schemes for the welfare of the people, he would be more accepted. But going abroad and saying he brought in investments to the state – it is good, but I don’t know if it will resonate with the people.”

The AIADMK is understandably exultant about their leader’s new avatar. “Of course there is definitely a positive image,” said Ramachandran of the AIADMK. “Government has done a phenomenal job in structuring it. The trip was great and everything was out in social media and there were a lot of positive comments pouring in,” he said.

The state goes to polls in 2021. VK Sasikala, the late Jayalalithaa’s confidante and a formidable power centre in Tamil Nadu politics is likely to be released ahead of her four-year jail term if all goes as per her team’s plan.

It is likely that the current calm is only the precursor to a big political storm.