IIPM Admission

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

While senior DMK functionaries maintain a studied silence, grassroots workers of the party, according to our survey, might actually be weighing in for Narendra Modi come the 2014 elections, reports Appanasamy

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is facing a bit of an embarrassment. While it is still firmly behind the Congress in the UPA government, the mood among the lower level party workers seems to be different. According to the survey conducted by TSI, more than 39 per cent of DMK voters in Tamil Nadu will support the BJP if Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is the prime ministerial candidate. Compared to that, the Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi has scored a mere 19 per cent.

Not unexpectedly, the result of the poll left the middle-level leaders of the party red in the face, scrambling to explain. “These are things that only the party high command can decide. We should not be talking about it till such time as a decision is given out by them, not even within party circles. Our leader (M Karunanidhi) will take the right decision for the party and we will abide by it. Till then, we cannot further comment on this,” said one, on the condition of anonymity.

The Dravidian parties, like most other regional parties, have always vacillated between the Congress and the BJP. Tamil Nadu had been a Congress stronghold before Jayalalithaa and her AIADMK swept the Parliamentary elections in the state in 1998 in alliance with the BJP. The DMK would go on to adopt the strategy next year and win even more seats in the Lok Sabha election of 1999. Both parties have, since then, supported the Congress time and again. But even the most rabid party worker knows that these alliances have been mostly opportunistic.

This time around, the balances seem to be tipping in favour of the BJP. The image of industrialisation and pro-progress activism that Modi has cultivated and promoted through popular media and news channels has gained quite a bit of traction among DMK workers, particularly the middle class. What has been more beneficial for Modi is his handling of the major earthquakes in the city. The common man seems to be firmly behind Modi's media-propagated image of a shining beacon. One DMK supporter, Dravida Mani from north Chennai, was quite unambiguous when he said, “If we do have an alliance with the BJP, we will work our very best to put Narendra Modi in the prime minister's seat.”

On the other hand, the last few years of UPA rule have not been the best, marked as it was with scams, allegations of corruption and economic strife. The recent “harsh decisions” taken by the government by way of FDI in the retail sector, diesel price hike and rationing of LPG cylinders have done nothing to cement support for the UPA among the middle class. Naseer from Ambattur echoes popular sentiment when he says, “The eight years that the UPA government has been in power has only aggravated dissatisfaction of the common man. Is BJP not a better option?”

To compound the problems for the grand old party, Rahul Gandhi has not exactly been able to solidify his claims to being a national leader. The debacle that the Congress faced in Uttar Pradesh is largely attributed to his strategies and that has not been missed by the public in Tamil Nadu. Adds Naseer, “The experiments made by Rahul in the 2011 provincial elections proved disastrous. His tireless propaganda did not produce anything near to the expected levels. So at present, the only hope is Modi.”

However, too much should not be read into the survey reports. “The idea of more volunteers wanting Modi to become the prime minister is not entirely true,” says AS Paneerselvam, the readers' editor of The Hindu. Even in AIADMK, no one knows whom to support except Jayalalitha. Actually, they are waiting for her lead, Paneerselvam adds.

While the popular sentiment is important, the final decision, as always, will lie with the chiefs. “In India, parliamentary elections are not held on the basis of prime ministerial candidates and their popularity. The members of Parliament ultimately decide the composition of the government and who becomes the prime minister, not popular sentiment,” says senior journalist Sigamani.

Both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa have been known to rule over their parties with quite the iron hand. And the party members, too, have been only too willing to swear “complete loyalty” to their respective leaders. And why not? It does help later on to reap the benefits of power. DMK supporters declare vehemently: “Even if we personally favour Narendra Modi, in the elections we will vote according to our leader's choice. We will never betray our charismatic leader.”

Therefore, as far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, it is clearly all a question of who eventually gets the blessings of M Karunanidhi or J Jayalalithaa. Everything else can only be regarded as mere speculation at the present juncture. There could be many a twist between now and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. 


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