While the impact of T.T.V. Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam and Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam on the Lok Sabha election and the Assembly bypolls remains to be seen, Tamil Nadu has, over the past few decades, provided space for a third or fourth player in electoral politics.
Senior leaders of the AIADMK and the DMK privately concede this. Over the past 25 years, G.K. Moopanar, Vaiko and Vijayakant were among those who sought to project themselves as alternative forces to the two established players. They had polled some votes, but could not emerge as winners, more so in the parliamentary elections.
DMK and AIADMK leaders argue that the same may hold good for the AMMK and the MNM, though they will end up splitting votes.
P. Ramajayam, Assistant Professor, Bharathidasan University and political commentator, says neither the AMMK nor the MNM has disowned Dravidian political discourse. “The two parties do not seem to be different in any way from the principal players in terms of their functioning or policies. Yet, they seek to project themselves as alternative forces to the DMK and the AIADMK.”
An AIADMK leader acknowledges that while the AMMK may eat into his party’s vote share to some extent, the MNM appears to have drawn the attention of sections of youth and educated people.
Noting that the State’s politics, for over 50 years, has been persona-based, a DMK veteran emphasises the need for having strong people and network at the local level, a feature that both Dravidian majors have. It is this characteristic that has been standing the two parties in good stead, despite the absence of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi. The moot point is whether the new players are as good as the established parties in this regard.
R. Thangathurai, chronicler of the State’s political history, says that since the late 1950s and early 1960s, efforts have been made to create an alternative force to the Dravidian majors. Leaders such as E.V.K. Sampath and S.B. Adithanar can be cited in this regard. Ironically, many of them subsequently joined hands with either of the principal players.