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Urban Local body polls in TN: Time for small parties to prove their worth

Arun Lakshman/ Chennai

The Urban local body polls scheduled to be held in February 2022 after a gap of six years are an opportune time for fringe political parties of Tamil Nadu to prove their mettle and acceptability among the general public.

The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the powerful political party of the Vanniyar community has already announced in the open that it would be contesting the Urban local body polls on its own or rather without any proper political alliance. The party which was part of the NDA alliance in the 2021 elections did not have that alliance during the rural local body elections in nine districts of the state and had then announced that it did not have had proper time to forge an alliance.

The PMK won only 47 councilor seats in the elections in which DMK won out of the 1421 seats. The DMK won 974 seats and the AIADMK 212 seats. The Congress could get only 33 seats while the BJP got 8 seats only proving the poor representation that the national parties have in Tamil Nadu.

PMK leaders Dr. S. Ramadoss and his son and former Union Minister, Anbumani Ramadoss have already announced that they would campaign extensively for the Urban local body elections and that they would prove that they are a major force to reckon with in Tamil Nadu. The PMK which won 5 assembly seats in the 23 assembly seats it contested as part of the alliance with AIADMK however walked out of the alliance in the October elections for rural local bodies.

The PMK has also announced that it wants to lead an alliance in Tamil Nadu sans both DMK and AIADMK. Political analysts find the dream of PMK farfetched and out of sync with reality.

C. Rajeev, Director, Centre for Policy and Development Studies, a Thinktank based out of Chennai while speaking to IANS said, “The PMK is aiming too far too high. They have only a 3.8 percent vote share in the 2021 assembly elections and that too is in alliance with the AIADMK and riding the wave of a 10.5% internal reservation for Vanniyars within the OBC reservation. The PMK fared poorly in rural local body polls and in Urban local body elections also it will not be different. The party seems to be far fetched from reality and in politics, you have to have a decent assessment of yourself before aiming the sky.”

Matinee idol turned politician, Kamal Haasan has announced the second list of candidates of his party Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) for the urban local body elections. The MNM fared poorly in the 2021 assembly elections and in the October 2021 rural body elections. The party failed even to get a single seat in the assembly or rural local body elections and several senior leaders have already quit from the party. Kamal Haasan is however optimistic that the party would do wonders in the Urban local body elections and is contesting the polls on its own.

The Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK ) of actor, the director turned politician, Seeman has also to prove his worth as the party also drew a blank in the rural local body elections as well as in the preceding assembly polls of 2021. Seeman with his ultra-Tamil nationalism and his pro-Tamil overtures is still not able to break the jinx of not getting elected in electoral politics and he has also announced that his party would contest alone in the 2022 Urban local body elections.

The two national parties, Congress and BJP are playing second fiddle to the Dravidian parties with the Congress in alliance with the DMK and the BJP with the AIADMK. Both the parties fared poorly in the assembly elections and subsequent rural local body elections but are planning to make a dent in the urban local body elections and win quite a number of seats.

With DMK firmly in the saddle and Stalin becoming hugely popular with his pro-people programs, and with the absence of a popular leader in the AIADMK leadership, it is almost a cakewalk for the ruling front in the urban local body elections also. However political observers said that AIADMK as a political party has a rich legacy and that it cannot be considered as an easy pushover in the murky politics of  Tamil Nadu where Tamil nationalism and  Tamil culture rule the roost more than national or international issues.

The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) of Vaiko is another political party that is fading into oblivion if it does not rework itself. The party is facing difficulties due to the poor health of Vaiko and his son Durai Vaiyapurai having entered the mainstream of MDMK politics only recently, it will take time before the party can rejuvenate itself and push for a reckoning among the public.

Actor turned politician Vijayakanth had made major strides in politics with his political party, Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) earlier in the 2011 assembly elections winning 29 seats. Vijayakant became the leader of the opposition in the assembly. However, after that, the party did not fare well and was strong in certain pockets of the state. Vijayakanth is tormented by health issues and his wife Premalatha and brother-in-law L.K. Sudheesh is in control of the party now. In Kanniyakumari District and Virudhunagar district, the party still has a say in some pockets but without a proper ideological backing and no proper political alliance, the DMDK is fast entering into political oblivion.

Dr. S. Uma Maheswari, a Political analyst and retired Professor of a private college in Chennai while speaking to IANS said, “Politics of Tamil Nadu is revolved around Dravidian politics. The fringe parties will not have any role to play and the Urban local body polls will in no way differ from the rural local body elections held in October 2021 and the DMK led front will cruise along. The AIADMK led front will give a fight but other than that no other front can challenge the two major Dravidian parties. There are no movie stars also on the horizon to raise a challenge to the two major Dravidian parties and the only person who can now have a grand entry in Tamil politics is superstar Vijay but the chances of him jumping into the political arena of Tamil Nadu is remote, at least for the time being.”