CHENNAI:Competing desperation is on display in the Dravidian land as the PMK and DMK are washing their dirty linen in public. A desolate DMK, desperate to gather allies, and the distraught PMK, struggling for its survival and electoral relevance, are engaged in a slugfest. Wannabe chief ministers, DMK’s M K Stalin and the PMK’s Anbumani Ramadoss, debunking each other hasn’t helped boost their stocks. Rather, it has laid bare their Achilles heel.
With its blatant casteist political mobilisation, which ensured Anbumani’s victory in the LS poll, beginning to evaporate, the OBC Vanniyar-dominant PMK, pushed into an existential crisis, believed that the coronation of Jr Ramadoss as the party’s CM candidate would help arrest its slide among the community. Leave alone consolidation, he was faced with the task of retaining the fast dwindling support base. And, to this end, he chose to take on Stalin in an attempt to dwarf the DMK’s heir apparent. Throwing the gauntlet at Stalin, he dared him for a one-on-one debate.
It all began with Stalin’s open letter to Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, on the pathetic state of governance. Coming out of Big Daddy Karunanidhi’s shadows, he was apparently trying to join the CM’s race. But, little did he expect that it would be unwittingly grabbed by another wannabe!
While Panneerselvam remained nonchalant, Anbumani tore into his DMK rival with an open letter apportioning equal blame on the Dravidian major for ruining the state and betraying the Lankan Tamil cause. Raising uncomfortable questions haunting the DMK, he said, “The DMK failed to stop the massacre of innocent Tamils in the Sri Lankan military offensive. When LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s ageing mother Parvathi Ammal flew down to Chennai for treatment, the DMK government sent her back without even allowing her to land in the city.”
Attempting an image make over for the party which orchestrated an OBC version of ‘Love Jihad’, he tried to lift wind out of the DMK’s sail by listing a litany of charges. Besides dynastic politics, the original sin, according to him, was the DMK caving into pressure from the Centre to the ceding of Katchatheevu and failing to renew the Cauvery agreement and letting Karnataka build three dams across the river. Then followed the failure to ensure the Centre to gazette the Cauvery Tribunal’s final verdict when it was part of the UPA government and its somersault on the Mullaiperiyar dam row. “The DMK lifted prohibition and is responsible for power scarcity. Pioneer of the freebies culture, the DMK is synonymous with corruption, besides introducing the ‘Thirumangalam formula’ of cash for votes,” he said. “Doctors have the ability to save patients in ICU. I will cure the State,” was his repartee to Stalin’s remark that Tamil Nadu is in the ICU, conveniently forgetting that he too is facing a CBI case in the Medical colleges scam and that his tenure as Union Health Minister was not a model for Social justice which the PMK is never tired of harping on.
A rattled Stalin chose to field his acolyte and former MP Thamaraiselvan hailing from the Vanniyar belt of Dharmapuri, who lost to Anbumani in 2014 LS elections. Ducking the tough posers, he turned the debate into a casteist narrative, by painting DMK patriarch as a saviour of Vanniyars and questioning the PMK scion’s credentials as a community leader. Ironically, it was a drastic shift from the past when Karunanidhi used to be hailed as the ‘leader of Tamils’. Anbumani was reminded that he owned his Rajya Sabha seat and elevation as minister to Karunanidhi.
But, a combative Anbumani challenging a one-on-one debate forced Stalin to break his silence. “I do not join issues with undeserving ones and never read their missives,” was Stalin’s response which, however, failed to put an end to the spat. The next day saw Anbumani coming out with his third open letter listing his qualifications and asking Stalin to list his own.
Well, the ugly spat only reveals the desperation of both the PMK and the DMK. For, there are doubts about the DMK’s ability to deliver and provide a credible alternative. As such, the hesitation among minor parties to align with it. In the case of the PMK, it is a non-deliverable ally and no more a make or mar force, which it once was.But, in a state where politics is a spectacle, the slug fest has provided comic relief.