Opinion: Will new DMK leader follow MK’s social and national agenda

The five time Chief Minister brought changes that addressed the issues of common people.
Opinion: Will new DMK leader follow MK’s social and national agenda


With the top leadership going to be filled on 28th of this month when the general council of the DMK meets, will the new leader follow the social and political agenda that made Kalaignar popular to the extent that TN people elected him for five terms as Chief Minister? DMK party over the years have drifted and downsized the social agenda. It is actually the DMK party that addressed the issues of common people when they were in power. Their social uplift programs may look populist but it is precisely these programmes which kept them closer to the people. 
When CN Annadurai, founder of the DMK and Chief Minister, died in 1969, Kalaignar was the natural choice for the office of Chief Minister. He was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for five terms. The last one was from 2006-2011. His first task was to create a new department to look after the welfare of the Backward Classes under the control of a separate minister. He also expanded the reservation for the BC to 69%. (TN is one state with highest percentage of reservation for the BC). He had a new concept of administration whereby he wanted the administrators (district authorities to reach out to the people) to reach people instead of people coming to meet the administrators in various government offices.
One of his earliest radical reforms was to limit the size of the land holding. He fixed it as 15 acres for a family. Many concessions enjoyed by the landlords were withdrawn and 67,000 acres of land were distributed to the landless. Close on heels, he also introduced another socialist goal closer to his heart making the ‘Tiller of the soil as owner of the soil’. The absentee land lord system thus was abolished by making the tenant of the land owner of the land. Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board is his brain child. Slum dwellers were provided with concrete buildings in the places in which they lived so initially the programme did not displace the slum dwellers. This is a programme that has been replicated by many states in India and one of the social uplift programmes that received huge money from international funding agencies such as World Bank. 
‘To behold God in the smile of the people’ was his credo. He loved the poor, marginalised and the working class. He only started the culture of freebies to help the poor to get out of poverty, hunger and destitution.  Free eye camps, free supply of rice during the festival times, free electricity to the farmers, free education, Adi Dravidha free housing schemes etc. The social agenda went through changes and declined over the period when he was Chief Minister for five times. The new leadership is expected to broaden the social agenda and the party’s connect with the people.  
His national agenda was as clear as the domestic agenda. As early as 1971 in the election manifesto of the party he demanded ‘state autonomy’. He was convinced that a federal government with decentralisation of powers granting more autonomy to states is the only solution to preserve the unity and the integrity of the country. He constituted the Rajamannar committee to study the union-state relations and its report on state autonomy was submitted to the central government in 1974.  
Apart from making a call for immediate constitution of inter-state council it recommended that union government should not take any decision without consulting the inter-state council when such decision can affect the interests of one or more states. Every bill which affects interests of the states should be first referred to inter-state council before it is introduced in parliament. 
Article 356 should be used only in rare cases of complete breakdown of law and order in state. Residuary power of taxation should be vested with states. These recommendations were completely ignored by the successive union governments who formed the government at the Centre. This is one authoritative document that has been often quoted by the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. He supported twice a coalition government at the Centre. He also strongly believed in the role of regional parties in forming government at the centre and thereby influencing the policies of the Centre. His party DMK and Akali Dal in Punjab were the first regional parties in India at a time when most of the states were ruled by the Congress. He was responsible for getting more powers to the state by fighting the issues regularly with them in the legislature and in courts. He was one of those who raised his voice strongly against emergency proclaimed by the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi. 
The new leader of the party has to set the house in order from small rebellious elements first. He has to revisit the social agenda pursued by the party under CN Annadurai and Kalignar Karunanidkhi. The party has to transcend from freebies to that of social uplift programmes for the marginalised sections of the state. At the national level with the parliamentary elections around the corner, some of the issues that the party highlighted and stood for such as ‘state autonomy’ have to be expanded in the context of union-state relations. An astute politician and a statesman is the need of the hour.
-The writer is a political analyst

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