Time for alliances and return of coalition dharma

A nose for it is more than sufficient to predict that India will soon be back to an older style of coalition government at the Centre.

The die is cast. It is now for the people to decide. The fruition of Tamil Nadu alliances is a reflection of the old practice of regional parties ruling the roost in State alliances while signing up for the national coalition. Even the BJP is a player now in a State coalition, accepting such a junior role after 15 years, understandably with some reluctance. The importance of pre-poll alliances is stressed as they might become crucial when it comes to totting up the numbers at Rashtrapati Bhavan for the President to decide who to call first for government formation.

And then there are the newbies. The Kamal Haasan factor will be tested in the elections into which he has decided to sally alone, without any allies. That is a brave stand to take,a for a debutant. It would be interesting to see if the pull of cinema that has dominated Tamil Nadu politics for a long time is still intact. The state’s two biggest matinee idols - MGR and Sivaji Ganesan - were early players and it wasn’t thespian talent that determined who was the more popular.

A nose for it is more than sufficient to predict that India will soon be back to an older style of coalition government at the Centre. The NDA did rule in the last four-plus years but only in name as the BJP had the majority on its own and that after 30 years of rocking to wild and even zany coalitions. The pollsters are saying no party will get such a mandate in the near future and they may be right to that extent and all of them agree on this. Back to "coalition dharma" is the tag line to the old "Delhi Chalo" battle cry.

This will be the first Lok Sabha poll after the deaths of J. Jayalalithaa in 2016 and M. Karunanidhi in 2018. Any kind of poll arithmetic that applied during their lifetime may not work. While Karuna leaves behind a cadre-based DMK in the hands of his son, Jaya left the legacy of power to the AIADMK by virtue of her winning the 2016 Assembly elections virtually singlehanded and without carrying too many heavyweight allies. Are her successors in the party capable of making an impression in a national poll?

The point is the DMK can do without its iconic leader who lived on 50 years after he first became CM, but the AIADMK, which lost a second iconic figure as CM while in office, seems far more vulnerable.

The hunt for allies was not such a bad idea then as the bonds with the PMK, still influential in northern pockets despite its caste orientation or because of it, are to stretch also into the assembly bypolls, which will actually be a bigger thing for Tamil politicians looking to tend to their power base at home.

Letting in the BJP, a virtual outlier in the Tamil Nadu political scene, might be an unpredictable thing to do. But did the ruling AIAMDK have a choice if reports about the ruling party at the Centre literally holding a gun to its leaders’ heads are to be believed. Of course, there was little reason for anyone to rail over other people forming alliances for, after all, those very people who carp were the ones who have been trying to form a mahagathbhandan for a few years now. Also, remember the DMK and Congress are getting together after falling out in 2013 over 2G, the scandal that was and yet wasn’t.

All parties in Tamil Nadu have been seen at the other end of the political spectrum with the DMK sharing power in the AB Vajpayee government.

The Communists and the BJP were also together in the days of the VP Singh coalition. Save for Congress and the BJP and the DMK and AIADMK, everyone has been an ally in a kind of gilded merry-go-round with the gilded pony invariably reserved for those in power. This is what makes Indian and State politics a little hard to understand, with all the enemies and the frenemies and the friends and foes floating around.

Kamal is only testing the waters while his contemporary in big cinema, Rajinikanth, has decided to watch from the box seat rather than get into the roiling contest right now. Vijaya kanth’s influence may be fading at the ballot box (EVM) and yet he is wooed before the big stakes poll by both Dravidian majors. And then there is TTV Dhinakaran, a patient player who has kept his cool while being hunted by the tax men and haunted by the cries of traitor from among the AIADMK ranks. It is quite a plateful then for Tamil Nadu politics facing its first big election in the post-Jaya, post-Karunanidhi era.

(R. Mohan is the Resident Editor of Tamil Nadu and Chennai editions of Deccan Chronicle)

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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