Nation Politics 16 May 2016 The ‘owl of mi ...

The ‘owl of minerva’ and TN assembly polls

Published May 16, 2016, 7:04 am IST
Updated May 16, 2016, 7:04 am IST
As this leaves us to wait for few more days to put together the biggest poll puzzle.
DMK party president M Karunanidhi
 DMK party president M Karunanidhi

Chennai: Our teachers in Madras Christian College used to caution us in a light-hearted manner that to “understand” the great 19th century German philosopher, Hegel, is to first get a hang of his monumental work on the ‘Phenomenology of History’.

And as students, many of us could hardly hope to even get a toe-hold in that fascinating, all-sweeping landscape of profound German idealism — it was as good as the ‘Vedas’ in Western academia for over a century — until we, after months of struggle with secondary sources, came across Hegel’s own all-time memorable quote: “the Owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.”  


In ‘Aam Aadmi’ terms it simply meant that we get an ‘understanding’ of a historical condition only “after everything is over”. By that time, rather than spell the ‘end of history’, as many Hegelians saw it, the ‘Geist’ or the ‘Supreme Spirit’ may have moved away to another historical cycle of thesis/anti-thesis/synthesis, the ‘triadic movement’ that is said to have strongly influenced Karl Marx too.
Just as the proverbial

‘Owl of Minerva’ sought to take wings when the campaign for the most hotly contested general elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly ended on Saturday evening, the Election Commission of India, in a dramatic late evening eight-page notification, postponed the poll in 134-Aravakuruchi Assembly constituency in Karur district from May 16 to May 23, after it found the poll process there ‘seriously vitiated’ by influence of ‘big money’.


As this leaves us to wait for few more days to put together the biggest poll puzzle, one is at best left with fragments of few patterns that have come to the fore in the last leg of a historic campaign.
 First, is the growth and diversification of the political parties in Tamil Nadu itself, as seen from the final list of all candidates put up on the EC’s website, in the form 7-A declarations for all constituencies slated to go to the polls.

While India’s grand old party, the Congress, has been content with just fighting 41 Assembly seats in partnership with the DMK, which has reconfigured its profile under the leadership of M.K. Stalin, younger son of the nonagenarian  DMK patriarch, M. Karunanidhi, a fledgling outfit with Tamil Nationalist aspirations, the Naam Tamizhar Katchi (NTK) led by film director-turned rabble-rouser, Seeman, honing his skills as an under-class icon, is contesting all the 234 seats, save two or three.


Seeman, who is himself fighting the Cuddalore Assembly seat, has even insulated the sacred so to say, declaring Lord Muruga as the ‘only true Tamil God’ culturally. Several other smaller parties and NGO-style organisations like Sharad Pawar’s NCP, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Jana Sakthi Party and ‘Gandhiya Makkal Iyakkam’ have liberally sprinkled their presence, not to speak of Ms Mayawati-headed BSP which, as usual, has a candidate in almost every other Assembly segment.

Further, in most constituencies in the Western belt, where the ‘Vellala Gounders’ are a dominant community, the Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK) has put up candidates and whose votes they would cut into is still not very clear.
While these parties do indicate the diffraction of the political spectrum, disenchanted with established parties, it is surprising that a major national party like the Indian National Congress is yet to see the writing on the wall vis-à-vis the neo-insular outfits like the NTK.


Barring the Congress president Ms Sonia Gandhi’s joint rally with the DMK leader, M Karunanidhi and Rahul Gandhi’s flashy one-day tour, Tamil Nadu has not seen such an inertial campaign by Congress in recent years as this one, amid the breakaway Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) joining the MDMK leader Vaiko and actor Vijayakanth-led front, the ‘People’s Welfare Alliance (PWA)’.  
This is despite the State Congress having star campaigners like Mr. P.  Chidambaram and the present TNCC president, E.V.K.S. Elangovan.   


At the other end, one notices other new political convergences in the making – like the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) led by Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, seeking to make it a pan-Tamil Nadu party by trying to make common cause with other major OBC groups. Only the results will tell the efficacy of this new social engineering.

Going by ground reports, the DMDK leader Vijayakanth’s fans and the Dalit outfit Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK) cadres seem to jell quite well in several segments in the North, backed by the Left parties.

Though the initial hype about the PWA has been virtually belied by the fag end of an over two-month long campaign period, a residual DMDK-VCK cadres’ camaraderie, sans Vijayakanth’s mercurial leadership role, is visible.
This is borne out by the fact that DMDK has taken most of the plum seats in the North-Northwestern belt, thereby directly challenging the OBC Vanniyars-dominated PMK.


This is another strand of the ‘new convergences’ unfolding in Tamil Nadu politics, in taking on the Dravidian majors, DMK and AIADMK.
 Finally, one interesting poll story untold yet relates to the DMK president, M. Karunanidhi, wittingly or unwittingly, sending discomforting signals to its Congress ally, who also has tied up with the two Muslim parties, including the

“Modi is my old friend,” he said at the DMK’s Madurai rally in urging the Prime Minister to take action on the “Anbunathan episode”, allegedly involving huge cash transactions at the latter’s Karur home.


The DMK leader’s remark came at a time when BJP was seen as cornering the Congress, an ally of the Dravidian major here, on the Augusta chopper

It seems Mr Karunanidhi’s voice was heard in New Delhi’s corridors of power on this issue. Rather coincidentally, the EC’s Saturday night notification postponing the Aravakuruchi poll, cites the ‘Anbunathan episode’ as one of the main reasons. By now, it is daybreak and Hegel’s proverbial ‘Owl of Minerva’ has already self-aborted its flight!