For yet another term of the Lok Sabha, Tamil Nadu will fail to influence national politics as the UPA is all set to virtually sweep the parliamentary elections in the state when the BJP is expected to get majority on its own at the Centre. It is a steep decline from Manmohan Singh’s UPA government days when Tamil Nadu had eleven ministers including six with cabinet rank in the Union ministry.
Even in the second term of the UPA government, Tamil Nadu had eight ministers, three with cabinet rank. In contrast, minister of state Pon Radhakrishnan was the sole representative of Tamil Nadu in the Modi government. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, though a Tamilian, represents Karnataka in the Rajya Sabha. The DMK’s expected landslide victory is a loss for Tamil Nadu, unless the Modi government chooses to accommodate some AIADMK Rajya Sabha MPs in the ministry, said analyst M Kasinathan. The lone survivor to withstand the DMK onslaught could be Anbumani Ramadoss of the PMK. DMK president M K Stalin deserves the credit for putting brakes on the Modi juggernaut in Tamil Nadu. The DMK-led front’s victory is the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year anti-Modi, anti-BJP campaign designed and executed by Stalin since the Centre introduced demonetisation in November 2016. The BJP state leadership failed miserably in countering it.
Stalin started the groundwork way back in 2014 itself. Immediately after the BJP’s victory in the 2014 LS polls, Stalin took a leaf from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own game plan and engaged a professional agency to assist him in strategizing and executing programmes. Interestingly, he pulled out one of the members from Prashant Kishore’s team, which worked for Modi in 2014. Stalin started off with a mass contact programme, travelling across the state over a one-year period, covering each and every assembly segment, meeting people from various walks of life, rubbing shoulders with loadmen, autorickshaw drivers and weavers, and sipping tea at wayside tea shops and engaging in small talk with villagers. He was rediscovering himself. The campaign was an instant hit and a new leader was born in Tamil Nadu. He waited for four more years to formally take over the reins of the party from his father – after his demise. After getting his father to oust his older brother M K Alagiri from the party, Stalin consolidated his position, without showing any hurry. Today, he is the undisputed leader of the DMK and the most popular politician in Tamil Nadu. Stalin’s equation with the Congress leadership was not all that great till he became the DMK president. The wedge kept widening as Rahul avoided calling on ailing Karunanidhi during his earlier visits to Chennai.
Stalin struck when it really hurt the Congress by shooting down the idea of a DMK-Congress alliance in the 2014 LS polls. After the parties revived the ties in 2016 assembly elections, things looked better for both, and more importantly, Stalin managed to develop a rapport with Rahul. In the runup to the present LS polls, Stalin projected Rahul Gandhi as the front’s Prime Minister candidate when no other opposition leader was ready to throw weight behind Rahul. Stalin in no time discovered a new chemistry with Rahul. He is looking at him as a partner to do business with in the long run. Today, he also rubs shoulders with other national leaders, most of whom have lost in the turf war with the BJP. For Stalin, it is an investment for future.