They bid goodbye to the world long back, but DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and AIADMK’s longest-serving general secretary J Jayalalithaa still dominate the political discourse, more so during this election season in Tamil Nadu.
Not a day goes without the two parties taking the name of the stalwarts who took the party to greater heights in the politically-crucial state that sends 39 MPs to the Lok Sabha. In fact, DMK President M K Stalin has made his father Karunanidhi the centrepiece of his campaign for the April 18 elections.
Both had controlled the political landscape of Tamil Nadu for decades together and even forcing the national parties to piggyback on them to win a few seats in the state.
Positioning himself as Karunanidhi’s son rather than DMK President, Stalin seeks to send a strong message to his cadre that the party would continue to be run with principles propagated by the five-time chief minister, though he is no more.
“At the end of the DMK manifesto, our leader Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) would write ‘sonnadhai seivom, seivathaithaan solvom’ (We will implement what we promise; we will promise only what we can implement). Likewise, Stalin as Karunanidhi’s son will only make promises that can be fulfilled,” Stalin told a public meeting in Sivakasi on Friday.
Not just this, Stalin keeps referring to himself as “Karunanidhi’s son” numerous times in his speech at every public meeting – he addresses two in a day – ever since he began his campaign on March 20 from his father’s birthplace of Tiruvarur. One surprising element in Stalin’s speech is his continuous reference to Jayalalithaa and assuring her “true followers and cadre” that the “mystery” in her death would be solved once the DMK came to power – in fact, he says, that would be the first job of his government.
With the AIADMK split into two, the DMK and Stalin feel they can benefit further by talking about Jayalalithaa’s death and her hospitalisation which was a hot topic in the state due to less information on her health.
But Jayalalithaa’s legacy has two inheritors for now – the AIADMK and the AMMK launched by rebel T T V Dhinakaran, the nephew of V K Sasikala. The AIADMK’s Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam call their administration ‘Amma Government’ and list the achievements of the dispensation which they claim is being guided by “Jayalalithaa’s soul.”
“Amma took numerous steps to improve quality of education in Tamil Nadu and my government which is being guided by her soul will continue the efforts,” Palaniswami told an election rally in backward Tiruvannamalai district.
While the AIADMK claims their government was following the path shown by Jayalalithaa, rebel Dhinakaran says the exact opposite – he tells people that the EPS-OPS duo have “sold” AIADMK to BJP and the party can be restored to its past glory only when it is retrieved from them.
Political commentator Bernard D’ Sami told DH that Stalin, Edappadi, OPS and TTV have no other choice than invoking the legacies of their late leaders since none of them would measure up to their stature.
“Both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa were trained in the school of adversity and were giants in politics. They had seen the heights of politics and also its lows. There is a very big gap and the gap will be very very difficult to fill,” D’ Sami, Professor of History at the prestigious Loyola College, said.
Though appropriation of the legacies of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa are on, nobody is anywhere close to them as of now, the professor said.