DMK: Opportunistic Solidarity With An Opportunistic Alliance?
Whispers amongst political circles in Tamil Nadu were rife with the question – “When Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal chief minister) are not attending Uddhav Thackeray’s swearing in ceremony, why is MK Stalin in attendance?”
The question was a legitimate one. For one, the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) took on a shrill anti-Modi, anti-Hindutva plank for its campaign for Lok Sabha 2019. This won them 38 out of 39 seats in the state.
Another reason is the memory of the Shiv Sainiks of the 1960s who rose to relevance under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray’s father Bal Thackeray – and his potent call to drive out ''Madrassis" from Maharashtra, specifically what was then Bombay.
The rationale behind the campaign by the Shiv Sena was that jobs which were meant to go to the Marathas were being taken away by the "Madrassis".
This call led to many attacks on Tamils who lived and worked in Maximum City.
Almost five decades later though, the DMK, which had strongly opposed the Shiv Sena since its inception, with its founder CN Annadurai condemning Bal Thackeray’s views, has now decided to cosy up to the saffron party.
DMK president MK Stalin and MP TR Baalu attended the swearing in ceremony of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday. Shiv Sena has got the chief minister’s seat with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) getting the deputy chief minister’s seat. Ally Congress has bagged the Speaker’s role.
While the Congress has been roundly criticised for forming an “opportunistic alliance” with the Shiv Sena simply to defeat the BJP in Maharashtra, MK Stalin’s show of solidarity has not gone down too well with even his supporters.
“Actually the Shiv Sena is much more virulently Hindutva than the BJP. But the DMK wants to capture the heightened anti-BJP sentiment here and harvest it,” political analyst Radha Venkatesan told The Lede. “In parliament too, the DMK opposed the imposition of President’s Rule in Maharashtra and later the swearing in of Fadnavis.
For DMK it is not about secular credentials, it is only about anti-BJP credentials now. It is not anti-Hindutva, it is not anti-saffron either. It is only anti-BJP and anti-Modi now. If there had been a secular plank, they would not have shared a stage with Uddhav Thackeray.
When Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have failed to share the stage with the Sena, Stalin has taken this opportunity only because of the heightened anti-BJP sentiment here in Tamil Nadu. For DMK, except Modi, everyone has the potential to be secular in India.”
Venkatesan argues that politics by nature is about opportunism. “If you are a tiger you will hunt down your prey. Similarly it is a natural thing for any politician to be opportunistic. We don’t have to take such a high moralistic stance on this,” she said.
DMK leaders could not be reached for comment. This story will be updated if they respond.
But political analyst Aazhi Senthilnathan feels politics and situations do change and that political leaders and parties must swim with the tide. “They can only take a political decision based on what the situation is today. They cannot go by what happened between Shiv Sena and the Tamils 50 years ago.
Today the Shiv Sena is a regional party that is against the BJP. The Shiv Sena, which has spoken in support of Hindutva, has not reaped dividends from it. They are forced to go back to their pro-Marathi stand. So in today’s political context I don’t think there is anything wrong with Stalin lending solidarity to the Shiv Sena,” he told The Lede.
He argues that the Shiv Sena’s fundamentals itself has been forced to change and that the DMK has reacted to this development positively. “Maratha pride is now a stand against the dictatorship of Delhi,” said Senthilnathan.
“Things have changed vastly, politically. So we cannot look at it from the lens of Hindutva. From the point of view of regionalism and federalism, the DMK is supporting the Shiv Sena. I do not see anything wrong with that.”