A year after Jaya's death: TN still has leadership vacuum, not a political one

A year after Jaya's death:  TN still has leadership vacuum, not a political one

Its been a year since the death of South India's most influential political figure Jayalalithaa. The fluid political situation in Tamil Nadu, consequent to the demise of Jayalalithaa, is still unsettled. From continuous revolts within to speculation about new political entries, the past one year has seen it all.
Though it appears to be calm, the scene in the state is still unstable as it is impossible to predict the future political configuration. The age and health of DMK patriarch Karunanidhi have widened the inevitable vacuum in the political scene. Too many uncharismatic leaders have taken centre stage in the state which has created utter chaos in the political scene.

Cult driven politics
Cult driven identity politics based on linguistic pride and caste have played a vital role in the rise of Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu politics has always been nurtured under the charismatic leadership of various leaders like Kamaraj, Annadurai, MG Ramachandran, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa.  All these leaders banked on the Tamil pride based on language and caste to mobilise the electorate. New political aspirants Rajnikanth and Haasan are also trying to cash in on Tamil pride.  Though newer regional political formations such as the PMK, Vijayakanth's DMDK  and Vaiko's MDMK  have tried the same political formula, they have fared poorly as compared to Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa.

Speculations over Haasan and Rajini
The mystery surrounding the political debuts of Haasan and Rajinikanth is growing in hero-worshipping Tamil Nadu as neither has made any concrete move. Kamal Haasan has only announced an app to mingle with people. He is busy at the moment with Vishwaroopam 2 and then Indian 2. He had made it clear that he will enter politics only after his commitments to the films is over.
Rajinikanth too is unlikely to make any announcements about the launch of a political party as he is busy with Shankar's 2.0 and Pa Ranjith's Kaala. Their political inexperience and apparent reluctance to take a stand on regional issues such as the Cauvery dispute with Karnataka and ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils will adversely affect their political aspirations. The question is will these superstars be able to make a successful transition from acting to politics as MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa did.

Divided, demoralized AIADMK
As Jayalalithaa did not declare her successor, AIADMK politics has been in turmoil over the past one year with too many pretenders for her legacy. Despite being in power, they could not carry forward the slew of welfare measures of Jayalaithaa due to never-ending internal politics. For them, the challenge is to stay united and give good governance for the remainder of the term. But in the past year, they have massively failed to establish a credible collective leadership or have any leaders emerge who can fill the void left by Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK merger was a dire necessity for both OPS and EPS to stay afloat when they were pitted against the TTV Dhinakaran led faction. Despite the merger, the cold war between the two continues as EPS is strongly being backed by most of the MLA's and OPS is supported by the cadres. Both of them lack the charisma and persona to influence the masses.

Sasikala Natarajan, who is currently lodged in a Bengaluru jail after being convicted in the disproportionate assets case has too many worries at the moment.  The Income Tax raid on Sasikala and her extended family members and the consequent findings of tax evasion to the tune of Rs 1,430 crore show how central agencies are backing the EPS led government. AIADMK's fight against Sasikala faction is open and head-on, with the entire state machinery being unleashed against Dhinakaran and his supporters.

Lazy, leaderless Opposition
The DMK, while being a strong opposition has many challenges to overcome. It continues to remain in splinters which makes them unable to put up a stiff fight against the failure of state government and capitalise on the current political situation in Tamil Nadu. Stalin has not come out of the shadow of Karunanidhi to lead the party.  The old guard in the DMK fears that they may not wield the same clout under Stalin as they did under Karunanidhi and this makes the situation more difficult for Stalin. He hasn't earned the trust of the cadres as his father did.  His unaccommodative trait has kept the party divided.

Congress and BJP have not been successful in empowering their local leaders and project them in the political space of Tamil Nadu. Opportunistic alliances that they stuck up in the past have made them less credible among the electorate.  They are unable to connect with the people of the state aggressively and take extreme stands on issues pertaining to them. But Dravidian parties are much closer to the heart of the people of the State on regional issues.  Though the centre is strongly backing the EPS led government as BJP sees huge possibilities to expand its presence in Tamil Nadu, it has not yet made inroads in the state.  The controversy over Vijay starrer Mercel has further distanced them from the masses. In order to find greater space in Tamil Nadu's political arena, these parties will have to work carefully upon their social inclusion strategies keeping in mind caste equations rather involving in controversies.

RK Nagar bypoll
RK Nagar which elected Jayalalithaa twice has become very relevant as it could make or break the political fortunes of AIADMK factions and the Opposition DMK. After long deliberations and infighting, the AIADMK has nominated E Madhusudanan as the party's candidate. Being an OPS man, Madhusudanan is not well accepted by EPS supporters and his victory will favour OPS as a charismatic leader. A loss will obviously raise questions on the two power centres of the party as it stands at a crossroads.  AIADMK would fancy its chances as EPS-OPS faction won the party symbol battle. Since Dhinakaran is also in the election fray, a split in the AIADMK vote bank is certain. DMK is fielding journalist-turned-politician N Marudhu Ganesh who is the party’s area secretary of RK Nagar East unit. The result will obviously mark the beginning of yet another round of politicking in Tamil Nadu.
After Jayalalithaa's death, the scene in the state is wide open as the wait for a charismatic leader goes on.

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