DMK chief Stalin on Sunday rallied his party men ahead of the formal launch of its campaign for the May 2021 Assembly polls, calling on them to win the minds of the people and resist “new outfits” that only seek to “erode” its vote share.
Stalin’s address at a party meeting in Chennai reflected the general anxiety among his supporters that the entry of players such as Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth and TTV Dhinakaran may end up strengthening the BJP in the long run at the cost of the traditional Dravidian political formations.
And for a party that has spent the last ten years in opposition to the incumbent AIADMK, these forthcoming polls are very much seen as the last chance saloon—DMK is not expected to survive another five years in opposition unscathed.
So on Sunday, three days before the launch of the DMK’s poll campaign, Stalin sought to rouse his party colleagues: “All AIADMK ministers should be defeated in these polls. Not just the party machinery but each of you should make sure that they are defeated. All these constituencies of ministers will have a lot of money power. But understand that money alone will not help in elections. AIADMK had lost several polls even after they invested money. So our mission is to break the money power and win people’s minds.” He then asked his party workers: “Panamaa, makkal manamaa? (money, or people’s minds?).”
The DMK chief said that “certain new parties” were being formed with the “sole purpose” of defeating DMK.
Stalin appealed to his cadres and leaders to “be polite” and “answer people’s queries in the most humble manner”. “Talk to them, invite them to us like you would invite them for a wedding at your family,” he said.
The party chief had good reason to remind his men about the virtues of politeness and humility. Allegedly unsavoury activities during the last DMK regime are still fresh in public memory.
Votebase worries for Dravidian parties
Despite DMK supporters’ fears, individual players such as TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK and Rajinikanth’s new outfit are more likely to weaken the AIADMK-BJP vote base rather than DMK’s. Kamal Haasan, too, had enjoyed the support of upper-caste voters in Chennai’s Mylapore area and the state’s Coimbatore region. Despite this, a clean image enjoyed by Chief Minister Palaniswami will make the going tough for DMK. Keeping family out of party affairs and selection of strong candidates may help Stalin’s perception among the people.
What gives DMK the edge in this election to the 234-member House is a large, powerful alliance made up of Congress, CPI and CPM, Dalit party VCK, and Tamil nationalist Vaiko’s MDMK, besides a number of local, community outfits which will contest under the DMK symbol (rising sun). Top DMK sources also gave an estimate of what the seat-sharing arrangement will look like this time—around 170 seats for those contesting under the DMK symbol, including community outfits, 25-30 for the Congress, and 6-8 seats each for smaller parties such as CPM, CPI, VCK and MDMK.
For all the talk of anti-incumbency, however, the DMK is up against a Chief Minister who has managed to maintain a fairly good image. Edappadi K Palaniswami has travelled extensively around the state, meeting people, and has also launched several sops, projects and schemes.
For instance, on Saturday, when he launched his poll campaign, Palaniswami also announced a special Pongal gift package that included a cash sum of Rs 2,500 for each of the 2.06 crore rice card-holders in the state. This will be distributed from January 4 through ration shops. It is to be seen if all these help him during the forthcoming polls.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines