Firm on ground, DMK aims for sun
CHENNAI: Cementing its stronghold in the state, the DMK in 2022 successfully positioned itself as one of the strongest anti-BJP voices at the national level. The beginning of 2022 marked the end of the honeymoon for the new DMK government. But the party largely retained its dominance. While opposition parties registered strong protests against the power tariff hike and the delay in fulfilling the poll promise of financial assistance for ration cardholders, there was no major issue on which the DMK government was forced to take a back foot.
The success of the DMK and its allies in winning over 90% seats in rural and urban local body polls in 2022 was unsurprising given that the party is in power. But what set the DMK apart was its ability to take a tough stand against the BJP, which is in power in New Delhi. Be it protecting the OBC quota or opposing the EWS quota, the DMK often eclipsed national parties. “Its strong stance helped it garner all the anti-BJP votes. Now, AIADMK leaders (the party is BJP’s ally) have started claiming the DMK will join BJP’s alliance in 2024. They clearly want to undermine the DMK’s credibility as an anti-BJP force,” political observer Tharasu Shyam said.
Still the party managed to thread the needle of maintaining ties with the Centre while politically opposing the party in power. Although issues like pendency of Bills at Raj Bhavan remain a concern, implementation of projects requiring state-Centre cooperation are signs of a working relationship. In contrast to the situation in Telangana and other states, CM MK Stalin has even shared public stages with PM Narendra Modi on more than one occasion.
The party also made full use of the law to mount a strong ideological opposition to the BJP with the DMK winning a case against the union government to ensure the implementation of OBC reservation in medical admission under the All India Quota.
In Parliament too, DMK members took up issues of national significance. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva’s private member Bill sought to declare all 22 languages in the eighth schedule of the Constitution as the country’s official languages. Rajya Sabha MP P Wilson’s private member Bill sought to fix qualifications for those holding the governor post and a time limit to clear state government Bills.
On the reasoning behind such moves, Wilson said, “India is a country with a lot of diversity. We should protect unity with diversity. But they want uniformity. That is what we are against.” Perhaps sensing it is on its best foot in the last decade, the party elevated Udhayanidhi Stalin, the CM’s son, as minister. Within weeks of ensuring Udhayanidhi’s birthday was a well-noticed event, he was included in the cabinet.
“Stalin has made it clear he is committed to the alliance with Congress. Besides, he maintains cordial relations with anti-BJP leaders from other states like Mamata Banerjee of TMC, K Chandrasekhar Rao of BRS, Arvind Kejriwal of AAP and has established himself at the national level,” said veteran journalist T Koodalarasan. DMK’s propaganda secretary T Sabapathymohan, said although the party is electorally regional, it has always been ideologically a national party. “From 1996 to 2014, barring the 1998 BJP government, DMK played a crucial role in the union government,” he said.