We all know that Sasikala is now sparing no time to step into Amma’s shoes. She is all set to take charge as Tamil Nadu CM. Her attention to detail is clearly apparent even in her smallest gestures – be it wearing green saree while meeting with the people as Jayalalithaa used to or sitting at the front of the car or waving from the balcony with her fingers forming the ”V” as her predecessor is known to, Sasikala is making the right moves and stepping into Jayalalithaa’s shoes.
But this is not going to be a cake walk.
Remember, there is MK Stalin to deal with, besides winning the loyalty of the people of Tamil Nadu. MK Stalin’s first reaction to the news of Sasikala taking charge as CM reveals that he is set to wage a very serious battle against AIADMK and most specifically, Sasikala. In his own words yesterday, this is how MK Stalin reacted, “People of Tamil Nadu voted for Jayalalithaa, not for her domestic help.”
Be it Sasikala or MK Stalin, the ideological stand of the Dravidian brand of politics has never been as fragile and under threat as it is today. So, what’s different for DMK under Stalin’s leadership and Sasikala’s move to take charge as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister?
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MK Stalin has every reason to rejoice at this recent turn of developments. His rise in Tamil Nadu politics is connected with the legacy of his father. DMK’s K. Karunanidhi is a powerful figure who has dominated Tamil Nadu politics for over 48 years and as his political heir, MK Stalin commands an immediate connect with the masses whereas Sasikala’s only claim to political fame is that she was close to Jayalalithaa and managed her home as a family member would.
On the other hand, MK Stalin functioned as both party treasurer and youth wing head of DMK, which gave him several opportunities to position himself as a leader of the people and rein in loyalty within the party. Sasikala scores zero on this front.
Unlike Karunanidhi, Stalin is also seen as a shrewd politician with a modern outlook, one who does not play by the old rules of the Dravidian brand of politics and is bullish about technology as a means of connecting with people.
However, the same cannot be said for Sasikala. No one even knows whether Sasikala is aware of the Dravidian idealogy that inspired MGR or Jayalalithaa – she has nothing to show for her stance on the Dravidian brand of politics and had made no attempt to do so when she made her first public appearance after Jayalalithaa’s demise – a missed opportunity indeed!
MK Stalin, in his first public appearance after being announced as DMK’s political heir, chose to play it very smart. He emphasised several times on what Dravidian politics means and gave it a development pitch. He emphasised that it has nothing to do with doles or freebies. He also pitched for equality and development of the people as the essence of the Dravidian movement.
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What MK Stalin chose not to speak about is more significant than what he spoke about at the India Today conclave. He did not refer to the politics of language – one that is critical to the Dravidian brand of politics that Karunanidhi is known for. Again, Sasikala’s stance on the politics of language also remains unknown.
A quick recap on DMK’s founder K. Karunanidhi’s brand of politics: He has always been a staunch believer of Dr. Annadurai’s school of politics. Though Anna was Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu only for two years, he has an iconic status. Anna Durai had skillfully channelised Tamilian sentiments and taken up a strong political stand against the imposition of Hindi as the official language of India. His simplicity, political acumen, anti-Brahmin stand and his concern for the well being of the poor is known to have inspired and left a lasting impact on Karunanidhi. It is even said that when Karunanidhi makes a promise, he does it in Anna’s name. It looks unlikely that MK Stalin would follow his father’s footsteps in this regard.
Sasikala, in comparison, seems to play up MGR in her posters but does not seem to know the political ideology that MGR embraced. While she claims that she will follow Jayalalithaa’s path and fulfill Amma’s vision, it is apparent that she knows very little of the finer nuances of Dravidian politics that Jayalalithaa grasped and played with, like a master craftsperson, thereby winning the loyalty of the poorest sections of the society.
So, the question is – How will Sasikala make her stance clear on subjects she seems to be ignorant about and how will her lack of understanding of these dynamics help DMK to reinvent itself and make itself the voice of the people?
For DMK, everything is at stake and the internal changes within the party’s structure are increasingly evident and the rise of Sasikala makes it an urgent opportunity for MK Stalin to establish his popularity with the people.
Perhaps the first move that DMK can make under MK Stalin is to tread cautiously and rein in the loyalty of their party cadres so that they are not tempted to cross over – a shrewd move that Sasikala can take.
By choosing to make political moves with caution, MK Stalin can wait and watch for AIADMK to make big mistakes. Without a vote catching personality like J. Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK is likely to crumble faster. However, DMK ‘s choice of political alliances will make or break their chances of returning to power in the state.