May be sign of a healthier political trend.
Setting a healthy political trend in Tamil Nadu, where the polity is deeply dominated by personality cult, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Tuesday received Opposition Leader M K Stalin at his chamber in the Secretariat. Stalin was being helpful towards the government to the extent of recommending a slew of steps to resolve the perennial crisis plaguing the transport sector.
Such meetings are rare in Tamil Nadu politics in which the rivalry among the head of the ruling party and those of the main opposition parties would be so intense. In fact, Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi, who alternatively ruled Tamil Nadu for a quarter of a century between 1991 and 2016 after Jaya became CM for the first time, never saw each other eye to eye. This is the first time that Stalin is meeting Palaniswami in his chamber while he has held discussions with the latter's predecessor O Panneerselvam when he was Chief Minister after J Jayalalithaa's death.
Armed with a report prepared by DMK leaders on how to reduce loses and restore the transport department to its old glory, Stalin led a delegation of senior leaders to Palaniswami and submitted the document to him. We will convene another all-party meeting and discuss our next course of action. The Chief Minister received the report, but he did not commit anything, Stalin was to say after the cordial enough meeting.
The DMK Working President has been opposing the recent hike in bus fares by the Tamil Nadu government and had even rallied the entire opposition to protest against the ruling party.
In the report submitted to Palaniswami, the DMK recommended removal of existing taxes on diesel like VAT and levy 10 per cent GST, which will result in an annual savings of Rs 1,600 crore for state-run transport corporations, revenue generation through advertisements and courier services by transport corporations, and attaching buses which ply beyond 200 kms to the State Express Transport Corporations.
The government should also upgrade its luxury buses on par with private bus operators who mint by flaunting their services and allot Rs 1,000 crore every year in the Budget for phasing out of old buses and replacing them with new hi-tech vehicles are some of the other recommendations made in the report.
A five-member panel headed by former Union Surface Transport and Shipping Minister T R Baalu prepared the report. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Stalin indicated that the government was non-committal on implementing recommendations made in his party’s report. The transport corporations suffer loses every day and have debts to the tune of `16,000 crore.
DMK makes final push for RK Nagar constituency.
CHENNAI: Already touted as the frontrunner in byelection to Dr RK Nagar assembly constituency even in the midst of heavy bribing of voters by rival parties, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Friday made a final and firm push by wheeling in its chief M Karunanidhi to Anna Arivalayam — the party headquarters. The ailing DMK chief had not stepped out of his Gopalapuram residence since October 2016 except for his hospital visits and a brief trip to the office of Murasoli — the DMK mouthpiece that he launched when he was just a teenager to propagate views of the Dravidian movement.
Karunanidhi's sudden visit to Anna Arivalayam — his favourite place where he used to spend majority of his time a day —has not just infused cheer among the DMK cadre but has also sent out a message to the R K Nagar electorate that all was well with him. DMK working president and Karunanidhi's son M. K. Stalin, his daughter Selvi and senior leader Durai Murugan accompanied the 93-year-old leader.
The former chief minister's vehicle, which is customized to accommodate his wheelchair, arrived at the Anna Arivalayam on the arterial Anna Salai at around 9 pm on Friday, instantly sending cadre and general public in the area into rapturous smile. DMK cadres emphatically shouted slogans and affectionately called him "Thalaivar." After spending 15 minutes at Anna Arivalayam, Karunanidhi left in his vehicle.
Political analysts view the visit of Karunanidhi, a hardcore political animal, to the DMK headquarters as a masterstroke by the Opposition party six days before electorate in RK Nagar exercise their democratic right. Winning RK Nagar is crucial for the DMK since this is the first election Tamil Nadu faces after the demise of charismatic J. Jayalalithaa and the party has managed to rally the entire opposition behind it for the crucial electoral battle. Anna Arivalayam has been Karunanidhi's third home for the past five decades as he used to drive there early in the morning to read newspapers. Old-timers recall that their leader would spend almost 15 to 16 hours in Arivalayam when he is out of power meeting cadre and party leaders.
THE PARTY NEITHER WENT TO TOWN ON JAYALALITHAA AND SASIKALA’S CONVICTION IN THE DA CASE, NOR DID THEY CAPITALISE THEIR POSITION IN THE STATE ASSEMBLY.
It was a hot April afternoon, only five months after J Jayalalithaa had passed away. Political tensions were running high and all eyes were on the DMK as a fractured AIADMK continued to make a spectacle of itself. Allegations of corruption following the RK Nagar election had soured the party’s image further in the public's eyes, and the time couldn’t have been more ripe for the DMK to strike.
Taking to the dias, at DMK leader Arcot Veerasamy's birthday celebrations, 64-year-old MK Stalin looked emotional as he said, "If party President M Karunanidhi was active today, there would have been several political changes."
It was a thought running through the mind of the populace, but for the DMK to admit it at a public event shows how clueless the leadership is, say experts.
"For the party's working president to say this on record, shows that they are largely clueless about how to get rid of the present dispensation," says RK Radhakrishnan, a political analyst. "The AIADMK lacks public support and suffers from poor image after Jayalalithaa's death but the DMK has failed to fill this power vacuum," he adds.
What did they do wrong?
Tamil Nadu stood still in shock on December 5, 2016 as news of J Jayalalithaa's death made the rounds. The DMK, which had an acrimonious relationship with the Chief Minister, however, took a step back.
To its credit, the party set politics aside and its President said, "I offer deep condolences on the passing away of Jayalalithaa, wishes of lakhs of her followers will make her immortal."
But the problem was, it failed to move forward after that.
The DA case
Karunanidhi was confined to the bed due to illness following Jayalalithaa's death and unfortunately for the party, his words came true. Jayalalithaa's image did not suffer, despite a conviction in the Disproportionate Assets case, and their efforts to not draw her into the matter or politicise the issue, proved to be costly.
"The reason to not bring up Jayalalithaa's conviction was wise. But in this effort, the DMK completely let go of a crucial victory. The reason she and Sasikala were convicted is because of the DMK's efforts and persistence in court, " reminds Gnani Sankaran, a political commentator.
"They should have immediately used this to question Sasikala and the entire AIADMK after she was convicted. Their corruption must have been pointed out," he adds.
And how could they have made their presence felt?
The answer comes from a leader of the Sasikala faction itself. "If the DMK had held a state wide rally against the AIADMK and say, had one lakh people arrested, that would have left a mark in public memory," he says.
'Set fire to the Assembly'
M Karunanidhi was known for his rousing speeches in the state Assembly and at rallies, that caught the imagination of people.
"Stalin should have used the opportunities he got in Assembly to get people to take notice of the DMK's politics. Simply walking out is not a solution," says Gnani. "They should have used that platform to attack Sasikala, EPS and OPS but they didn't. Instead their campaign was too generic and gave a sense of uncertainty," he explains.
The DMK, however, disagrees with the view. "We have directly gone to the people, interacted with them and exposed the government's failures," states DMK leader TKS Elangovan, "We are conducting agitations everywhere and addressing all major issues that come up," he adds.
What about the DA case?
"Our stand in the matter is vindicated. What else is required of us?" he asks.
Experts however disagree with the view.
"Even now, Stalin does not speak about Sasikala. He does not question the corruption that is rampant in the government strongly," says Gnani.
The leader from the Sasikala faction points out that the DMK has bureaucrats loyal to them in every department of the government. If need be, they can easily find how the government is looting money and trace the funds being siphoned off. "What are they scared of?" he asks.
Is the DMK kept in line by the BJP?
It is an open secret that the BJP is attempting a backdoor entry into Tamil Nadu, by using its influence over the current dispensation.
The multiple Income tax raids, odd behaviour of Governors in the state and the delay in crucial verdicts following Jayalalithaa's death, all point to a pattern of control from the Centre, opine experts. But is the DMK too holding back in fear of retaliation from the Centre?
"The 2G case is crucial for the DMK. If their leaders are convicted, the party's image will take a huge beating. That could be holding them back," says the former AIADMK leader.
But experts claim, that even a verdict convicting Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi will only benefit Stalin. "That would make the path clear for him. Nobody else can challenge his post," says Radhakrishnan. "Yes, if Raja is convicted they would have to answer the public, but they must have a strategy ready if and when that happens," he adds.
The DMK which has been witnessing the Income Tax department's escalated activity this last year against members of the Sasikala faction, remained muted in its response. "We are not afraid of the I-T or ED," says TKS Elangovan. "Yes, the BJP is protecting the minority government in power from collapsing. So, only an election will show how popular the DMK has now become," he adds.
The RK Nagar bye-poll
The DMK has, for the second time, fielded Marudhu Ganesh as its candidate for the RK Nagar bye-poll – a decision that has been questioned due to the candidate's lack of prominence within the party.
"He is a resident of RK Nagar and his mother was a councillor. She was highly respected in the area. The family has traditionally been supporters of the DMK," explains TKS Elangovan.
But what should have been a sure shot victory for the party, still remains a multi pronged contest with no clear victor as yet.
The DMK leader admits that the bye-poll is crucial in the current political landscape, but explains that the party has also approached the judiciary in its efforts to derail the 'minority government'.
"The court is yet to give two orders – one on the wrong disqualification of 18 MLAs from the Sasikala faction, and the other on 11 MLAs of the former OPS faction who should have been dismissed," explains TKS Elangovan. "Since the Governor remains silent, this order will help prove that this is a minority government," he adds.
The trial for the case ,which was filed in September, however is still underway with even the Speaker yet to complete his argument in court.
"A legal battle is going to be long drawn out and only the semantics it creates initially has any political impact," says Radhakrishnan. "As the case pulls on, its political significance will be lost. In its current state of confusion, the DMK is unable to capitalise on this current political turmoil," he adds.
DMK Working President M.K. Stalin on Saturday took exception to an AIIMS doctor's reported comments on dengue and sought his removal from the central team visiting the southern state to study the disease's impact.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Professor of Medicine Ashutosh Biswas told reporters on Friday that eradication of dengue "is not in the hands of the government" which, Stalin said, was "shocking and downright disgraceful".
"It is indeed a statement of extreme arrogance and ignorance, unbecoming of a doctor, which brushes aside the role of a democratically elected government to be involved in preventive actions to stop the onset of dengue infection," Stalin said in a statement here.
"Biswas' statement is counterproductive to the objective with which the central team has been sent to Tamil Nadu and in fact dilutes the significance of the visit," the DMK leader said.
"The gross insensitivity associated with this statement makes one question as to how come a member of a central team mouths a statement which reeks of arrogance? Who gave him the authority to issue such statement of negligible merit?" Stalin said.
He said he urged the central team to structure their recommendations in such a way that the state government's request for funds is honoured.
Stalin demanded Biswas' removal from the team for "creating panic among people".
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