From the fringes, a new political power play

From the fringes, a new political power play

From the fringes, a new political power playThe State is witnessing a unique foregrounding of formerly marginal political parties and groups

Political parties and groups that had remained on the fringes of Tamil Nadu’s political landscape for decades suddenly seem to have taken on a new life of their own. They are today more visible, more proactive than ever before and even give the impression that they would soon move centre stage.

They tread where mainstream political parties would think twice before entering, and espouse issues they are unlikely to consider. They often speak the language of Tamil Nationalism, often bordering on secessionism and separatism. Be it protests against restrictions on holding the jallikattu or the demand to shift IPL cricket matches out of Chennai or attacks on toll plazas on highway

However, notwithstanding the overall political state of flux in the State providing fertile ground for such players to thrive, can these protests bring them centre stage?

Panruti Velmurugan, founder of the Tamizhaga Vaazhurimai Katchi, who was at the forefront of the recent anti-IPL protests, denies that the protests were being organised to gain any political capital.

“When we organise protests to highlight vital issues directly affecting the lives of people, we never keep in mind the political dividends our efforts would bear. Even when I was a member of the Assembly representing the PMK, I raised issues such as illegal sand quarries, sale of narcotic substances and custodial deaths,” he contends.

Radicals’ new allies

Undeniably, the fringe groups have achieved a degree of success in centre-staging the ideology of Tamil Nationalism and attracting followers for the cause.

Film director Seeman, founder of the Naam Tamizhar Katchi; Thirumurugan Gandhi, founder of the May 17 Movement, and a new crop of film personalities including directors Thangar Bachan, Ameer and Gowthaman have made their presence felt by raising issues that, according to them, the mainstream political parties may not touch.

Mr. Velmurugan talks of why he opposed the IPL matches. “We are not going to oppose if India is playing against Pakistan or Tamil Nadu is playing against another State. IPL matches are nothing but a form of gambling and the teams are owned by those who have a close association with political parties. It involves huge money. IPL matches are actually a curse to the sporting spirit,” he argues.

Some Muslim radical groups, active after the formation of the BJP government at the Centre, have found a new ally in the Tamil Nationalist groups. These radical groups emerged in Tamil Nadu after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and they have gradually replaced the moderate Muslim political parties. These groups played an active role during the jallikattu and anti-IPL protests.

‘Unlikely to gain strength’

Dravida Tamizhar Peravai leader Suba. Veerapandian said the political parties led by Seeman and Velmurugan were unlikely to become strong enough to capture power in the State. “Mr. Thirumurugan Gandhi says he is not interested in electoral politics. As far as others are concerned, if they are ready for an alliance with major political parties they can get some seats in the Assembly,” he said, while welcoming the protests held by them. However, leaders such as Seeman, who contested elections by himself in the past, are optimistic that they would secure a strong footing in Tamil Nadu politics. “I do not know whether they are really serious or just posturing,” Mr Veerapandian said, explaining it was difficult to sustain a support base only on emotional political discourse.

He agreed that “anti-Dravidianism” is the issue that underpinned the Tamil national groups. “In the beginning Mr. Seeman claimed that he was a grandson of Periyar and later rejected him. He once again talks about Periyar’s ideology. There is nothing wrong in being an anti-Periyar. But one should be consistent in his stand. When they turn against the Dravidian movement, I suspect their voice,” he said.

Whether singly or along with others, these fringe groups would gain a certain critical mass and make an electoral impact, or at least come to influence State politics in the longer term remains a moot point at this time,. However, it is clear that they are outgrowing the conventional definitions of the ‘fringe’.

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