A Plan for The AIADMK

I’ve never been a fan of any leaf of the Indian State of Tamil Nadu’s ruling Political Party, The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (AIADMK), or even leaning towards it. For a brief moment in time, I did like the good intentions and national fervour of its founder, the extremely popular and famous Tamil cinema actor and then superstar M G Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR. But this was in the backdrop of the severe parochialism of MGR’s life-long rival and ‘mother-ship’ Party, The Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (DMK). We call them the main Kazhakams of Tamil Nadu.

MGR split from the DMK, to successfully start-out on his own, adding Anna to DMK, due to the endemic corruption that had seemingly crept-in to the Party after the original founder of the Dravidian Parties, Annadurai, Anna (elder brother), to everyone in Tamil Nadu — passed away. MGR was so successful that when he pitched himself against the DMK in the Assembly Elections he won easily on debut, and remained in power for over a decade, entirely due to his charisma and the awesome magnetic pulling power of his image as a supporter of the poor and downtrodden masses, and the saviour of maidens-in-distress. He cultivated a strong image of being a ‘Mom’s Boy’, worshipping his mother like God, and being down-to-earth loaded with tons of humility. He could do no wrong. Anna, the brilliant founder of the DMK, had tactfully brought MGR into politics to draw people to the newly formed Party then struggling to get a foot-hold in Tamil Nadu. He famously told MGR, ‘Thambi, just show your face and the people will vote for us. Leave the rest to me’. Anna had great oratorial skills and magnificently entwined it with MGR’s ‘hero good looks and on-screen deeds’ to romp home in the Elections, in the first round, and then kept the magic going in Election after Election.

MGR’s AIADMK Party symbol, the ‘Two Leaves’ eclipsed the ‘Rising Sun’ of the DMK ever since he entered Politics and until is death due to illness. Looking back, from today, the symbols have an eerie meaning. While the AIADMK is presently being held together by two small-time, but growing big leaders, O Pannerselvam (OPS), and Edappadi K Palanisamy (EPS), the DMK has become a ‘rising son’ Party. After the death of the DMK Chief, his Russian name bearing son has become the Chief, and in turn the ‘grand’ son (also carrying the Russian name) is being lined-up for the role, in the years to come. The Dravidian in the DMK begins with the ‘M’ and ends with ‘K’. I don’t need to explain this, I’m sure you know. If not, visit the Marina Beach, or just about ask anybody in Tamil Nadu, or simply stare at the sun with a pair of bold dark glasses — they will find you!

The AIADMK was thrown into disarray when its ‘MGR trained’, equally charismatic and beautiful Actress, iron-lady Leader, fondly called ‘Amma’, died in mysterious (still being investigated) circumstances, following a prolonged illness. During the many times the Law caught up with Amma, while in Power, and forced her to count the jail bars, OPS filled-in and keep the Chief Minister’s chair warm and cozy; until Amma could wrestle with the Law and get back to, ‘waving to the masses’ from balcony of her lovely House in Poes Garden, Chennai. Never mind, the Opposition calling her ‘Balcony Pappa’ This happened a couple of times.

However, in the game of the Game of Thrones following Amma’s passing, Tamilnadu — travelling through curving country roads and flashy holiday resorts — almost saw a ‘Household Partner’ ascend the Throne only to be thwarted by the Law, catching-up fast and furiously, crashing the Partner in to a Bengaluru jail. Candle making becomes a job and counting of jail bars starts again. But not before the ‘Lion of Salem’, EPS, finds himself sitting on the Throne and a meek OPS agreeing to be his deputy — for the love of Amma and the Party. Oh! It’s truly Two Leaves — no doubt about it.

The nay-sayers, the expatriates, the garden spies, and the sun-rise experts, spent almost every day predicting when EPS would fall: in two months said one, in six months said another, in a year said yet another. Meanwhile, EPS grew into the job and was actually performing well, rightfully supported by the Centre. MGR always believed in working in co-ordination with the Centre, rather than oppose everything it does — which the DMK does so effortlessly (and needlessly) well.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck India, and EPS’s AIADMK found many of its voices (with Amma’s green photo shouting out through their white shirt pockets) speaking up and rising up to the challenge of managing the spread of the virus in Tamil Nadu. They did it in the name of Amma and we were endlessly drilled — bored to death, if I might say with, ‘ Manbimegu Puratchi Thalaivi Amma’vin Aatchi’ Whatever, I must say EPS & Co are doing a reasonably good job and should be commended for the quick decision-making and control of the pandemic, thus far. The fact remains that if it weren’t for Amma’s campaigning skills and its electrifying ‘Two Leaves’ symbol, the AIADMK would have been burnt by the Rising Sun. EPS and OPD owe that to Amma, for sure. They know that only too well.

With Tamil Nadu State Elections coming up in the year ahead, in 2021, the AIADMK finds itself, probably for the first time in its History, without a charismatic, dynamic face to show and bring the voters to vote for the AIADMK. It’s almost at the proverbial, cross-roads. The Game of Thrones is entering a brand new season and this time the weather will be hot. The scales seem tipped in the direction of the Rising Sun, howling to get back to power and seething with the rage of being blocked from a real sunrise for almost two continuous decades, with only one break of five years. If we cannot rise with the Sun, who can? The DMK goes into the Elections thinking that it’s ‘their birth right’ to win and come back to power. They also have that Russian name spine holding the various vertebrae together. They have been vociferously exercising, by walking out of the Assembly as often as they could, to grow the strength of their legs, and a power-again scenario. Meanwhile, other Parties, and once fearsome Actors are donning the war-paint to get their Big Boss acts together hoping to make a difference.

The current Chief Minister, EPS, was chosen by the jailed Household Partner to sit on a Chair, that was almost hers, and he has since seriously capitalised on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to make a name for himself. He has, coming from humble beginnings, in a village near Salem, worked his way up the AIADMK ladder. But given the emerging situation of the Household Partner walking out of jail in the upcoming year he could be influenced by the Partner, in mysterious ways, who will act as a martyr, having ‘sacrificed herself’ for Amma. OPS has, to thumping applause, rebelled against this influence which has resulted in the present ‘comfortable’ situation. He was the ‘chosen one’ by Amma, in times of crisis, and if indeed the AIADMK believes in doing everything in the name of Amma, OPS should rightfully be the CM Candidate. Else, please drop that ‘Manbimegu Amma Act’.
Alternatively, OPS and EPS could step aside and become full-time Mentors, running the Party affairs, after carefully selecting a bright, young CM Candidate and grooming him/her to become the Chief Minister, should they win the Elections. The AIADMK has thrown up many more Chief Ministers that the DMK has done. This is a superb inherent strength. The job of a great Leader is to create more Leaders, not followers. The AIADMK Party worker should believe that he too can reach the highest position in the Party, much like an OPS or EPS, if he proves himself to be capable.

Before all of this, the AIADMK should sit down at the drawing board, boldly design authentic, pragmatic, workable plans to make Tamil Nadu a great State in all aspects. Transform the Party into a modern ‘green house’ for its two leaves to grow, and to power ahead in the years to come.
The focus on Education and Healthcare in the last Budget Season was invigorating and shows they seem to know the priorities. They should accept the fabulous National Education Policy, NEP 2020, and implement it in the State. Students should should be encouraged to learn one or more languages in addition to the two of Tamil and English, and why not Hindi? Leave the unrealistic Tamil chauvinism part to the DMK — they will fall with it. The recently passed Farm Bills are path-breaking and they should be executed with gusto. We need urgent Police Reforms, we need better roads and infrastructure, we need Stadiums for our kids to become Olympic athletes, we need parks for the Old to walk — before they die… we need so many things to be done — A long List pregnant with expectations.

The AIADMK should promise that it will accept all laws passed by Parliament, after ensuring that it has debated them, which ever Party is in power, and work closely with the Centre. If you disagree, initiate a process to make changes; to make the Laws better. Avoid the chafing, belligerent fighting and endless wild opposition stance. It gets one nowhere!

This pandemic has taught us many things, lighted-up previously hidden dark areas of our resolve, and the AIADMK has gained a never-before wealth of experience, which they should not throw away. Focus on Education, Health and good governance delivering services with mindful efficiency. Give the talented people in the Party, opportunities to become Party Leaders, Ministers, Chief Ministers. Show them the way, by example. And for God’s sake drop the constant reference to Amma. We have had enough. Come on your new own. Strengthen the stem and the roots, and the two leaves with be able to use the sun to photosynthesise their food with ease. Think it over. The AIADMK has nothing to lose.

Postscript: Meanwhile, I hope to see the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) make a brave decision such as announcing a CM Candidate, say Annamalai IPS, and forming a terrific cabinet around him with able-minded people-even before the Elections, to signal intent, in the event they come to power (probably in an alliance with another Poes Garden Actor-living down the lane, or in a dream, I dream).

Hope is never hoping too much!

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Kumar Govindan

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!