CHENNAI: In the just-concluded by-election to R K Nagar Assembly constituency, there were 28 candidates in the fray. Of them, only two represented recognised political parties, the AIADMK and the CPI. Five others belonged to unrecognised but registered parties—those that are not serious contenders but become visible only during election time.
In Tamil Nadu, several political outfits have cropped up rapidly over the years, but many could not withstand the test of time— after short stints, they were either merged with other parties or with the parent party from which it initially split. Many of these parties, formed as breakaway groups of major political parties, wound up after a short while.
Among the early parties in Tamil Nadu that have now become defunct is the Commonwealth Party, launched by M A Manickavelu Naicker, which existed in the state from 1951 until it was merged with the Congress in 1954. Similarly, Tamil Nadu Toilers Party was formed by S S Ramasamy Padayatchi and was merged with the Congress in 1954 but it was revived in 1962. After the party faced total rout in the 1967 Assembly elections, it was merged with the Congress again. Tamil Arasu Kazhagam was a political party launched by M P Sivagnanam, popularly known as Ma Po Si. The party became defunct after Sivagnanam’s demise in 1995. In the 1980s and 1990s, many new political outfits cropped up and eventually shut shop after a while.
In Tamil Nadu, there have been a number of examples for VIPs in the film industry and politics forming new parties but shutting shop as they could not withstand political vicissitudes. MGR Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam was formed by director and actor K Bhagyaraj in 1989. Touted as the political heir of former MGR, Bhagyaraj launched his party with great expectations, only to realise that politics could not be his forte. His political venture became a failure and the party is defunct now. One more failure in Tamil Nadu’s political arena was Tamizhaga Munnetra Munnani, launched by thespian Sivaji Ganesan in 1988. The party lost all seats it contested in the 1989 elections. Sivaji Ganesan himself was defeated by a DMK candidate in Thiruvaiyaru constituency. Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s attempt to run his own political outfit the Congress Jananayaka Peravai (Congress Democratic Front) also became a short-lived one.
There are numerous caste, class, and linguistic political outfits in Tamil Nadu and some of them side with the AIADMK and some other support the DMK. Several caste associations of the Nadars, Mudaliyars, Dalits, Yadavas are there in the state. And during every general election and by-election, just two months ahead of the polling date, fringe caste outfits start expressing their ‘solidarity’ with major parties and the major political parties too some time woo these parties behind the screen as these fringe parties have their presence in some pockets of the State. After the election, the leaders of these parties would get some posts in the government, like the chairperson of a board etc. for their support.
Political commentators feel that fringe groups and outfits use general election as an opportunity to establish themselves in the political arena. They consolidate their regional and cultural identities during the election so that they can secure more seats in any alliance or some political gain in future. Even failure in an election will help some of the outfits to gain a foothold. For instance, the Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam (KMK), a party of the Vellala Goundars in western Tamil Nadu, lost all the seven seats it contested as an ally of the DMK in the 2011 Assembly elections. Despite some intra-party wranglings, the party continues to survive.
Currently, of the total number of political parties, including the recognised state parties and unrecognised but registered political parties, around eight per cent of them are in Tamil Nadu—there are 154 political parties in Tamil Nadu as on date and two more parties are awaiting the approval of the Election Commission of India.