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The plans of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to carry out route marches at 50 places in Tamil Nadu has brought out the fissures within the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) alliance as the Dravidian party’s allies are visibly unhappy with Chief Minister MK Stalin’s soft approach in practice despite his strong anti-BJP rhetoric.
Most of the DMK allies have come together to exert pressure on the party-led government in Tamil Nadu to stop the RSS route marches scheduled on Gandhi Jayanthi Day. All the allies of the DMK, barring the Congress, announced a communal harmony human chain event on the same day, which finally forced the DMK government led by MK Stalin to stop the RSS route marches on that day. But, the government also denied permission to the human chain event of its allies, causing resentment in the DMK front, which swept the State in the 2019 Parliament elections on an anti-BJP platform. Finally, permission was given to the human chain, after the High Court allowed the RSS route march on November 6.
When all the DMK’s allies opposed the RSS rallies, the State government appealed for a ban on the processions in the Madras High Court which dismissed the plea against the ban.
The fact that Stalin’s government refused to stop the RSS route marches till its allies announced counter programmes on the same day have raised questions over the DMK’s strong commitment to fight Hindutva on the ground.
Cracks are visible in the DMK alliance ever since the State government hiked power tariff, a move which was opposed by both the CPI (M) and CPI. The ruling party reacted angrily to the statement of CPI(M) State secretary K Balakrishnan against the steep power tariff hike which is the DMK government’s most unpopular move ever since it assumed office last year. The DMK warned its Left ally that such public utterances would harm the alliance but the CPI(M) did not bow to the ruling party’s pressure, staging public protests against power tariff increase throughout the State.
DMK’s efforts to silence its allies met with stiff resistance and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) , another ally too joined the vociferous opposition to the hike in electricity charges, a move which has resulted in widespread resentment among the people. The allies did not feel constrained to defend the tariff hike but publicly and openly opposed it.
At this juncture, the scathing attack on Manu Smrithi, considered as one of the scriptures of Vedic Hindus, by DMK deputy general secretary and former Union Minister A Raja shifted public attention from the power hike move. Raja’s speech at a function at the Dravidar Kazhagam headquarters, drew vociferous opposition from the BJP and Sangh Parivar outfits. Almost all the DMK allies came out with statements backing Raja and the DMK front appeared united and strong again.
However, Raja’s speech did not elicit any support from the DMK leadership and almost all the leading functionaries and media backing the ruling party maintained conspicuous silence. Even while Raja was under attack from the BJP and AIADMK, he looked isolated within the ruling party, despite receiving widespread support from the cadre in social media.
Finally, Stalin broke his silence and advised his party leaders not to make speeches which give room for ‘poisonous communal forces’. Though the Chief Minister’s statement appeared to be a veiled attack on the BJP, practically it was seen as a gag on DMK’s ideological faces like Raja to speak against the saffron party.
Though Stalin’s government had finally stopped the RSS route marches, a perception that his party is following a soft approach towards the BJP has gained ground not only among its allies, if not among anti-BJP voters of Tamil Nadu.
Even before Stalin’s statement, former Union Minister and another deputy general secretary of the DMK, Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan, who quit the party earlier, had stated that she would be free to hit out at the BJP after quitting the DMK. In an interview to a Tamil channel, she said it would be embarrassing for the DMK, if she continued in the party and made strong comments against the BJP. Her remarks had raised doubts if there is a gag order in the DMK not to speak against the saffron party and Stalin’s statement restraining Raja only confirmed what Subbulakshmi had said.
When all the DMK’s allies opposed the RSS rallies, the State government appealed for a ban on the processions in the Madras High Court which dismissed the plea against the ban. However, the State government did not act when its allies pressed for an appeal against the High Court order in a Division Bench of the High Court or the Supreme Court.
One of its allies, VCK, appealed against the order, but it was dismissed by the High Court. Naam Thamizhar leader Seeman, a strong critic of the DMK, publicly questioned why the DMK government is reluctant to appeal against the High Court order.
With the DMK government showing no signs of taking legal action to ban the RSS processions, the Left parties and VCK announced a human chain event on the same day, putting the Stalin government in a tight spot. MDMK leader Vaiko, another DMK ally, too jumped on the bandwagon and announced that his party would take part in the programme organized by the Left and VCK. When the Dravidar Kazhagam too announced its support for the human chain the DMK appeared isolated in the anti-saffron front in Tamil Nadu.
Finally, bowing to the pressure mounted by the allies, the DMK government announced that all processions including that of its allies and RSS would not be allowed on Gandhi Jayanthi Day. Though Stalin’s government had finally stopped the RSS route marches, a perception that his party is following a soft approach towards the BJP has gained ground not only among its allies, if not among anti-BJP voters of Tamil Nadu.
Stalin, in his statement advising party men not to give room for “poisonous communal forces” had placed the responsibility of opposing the saffron brigade on the people of Tamil Nadu. He had compared the government with a ladle containing rice and dhal adding that it should be handled carefully. Former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi too had used the comparison a few times. But, people also remember the words of DMK founder C N Annadurai comparing ideology to one’s dhoti and the government to a towel on the shoulder.
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