When compared to TN Assembly Elections, DMK and the allies are more happy with their victory in the local body elections. They are bragging that this victory is because of their good governance for the past nine months. Some people have been soothsaying that the BJP has no place in Tamilnadu and that the AIADMK has no future anymore.
The DMK alliance had won in all the 21 corporations, 132 seats in 138 municipalities and 80 per cent seats in 489 town panchayats. In particular, the DMK’s success in the west zone, where it was very weak, is a special reason for their immense happiness.
The BJP which faced the elections without any alliance is now campaigning that it has grown into the third largest party in Tamilnadu. The pro-ruling media at the national level are also advertising it in a big way. On the other hand, the DMK supporters and the anti-BJP people are just ridiculing about the BJP’s electoral performance.
How important is this local body election, which had been held after a decade, to the working people? We also have to talk about this election to answer questions like whether we should just mock at the fascist BJP’s claim that their party is growing rapidly.
‘Elections’ and ‘democracy’ are for the looters
In every assembly and local body elections, we can see that people are protesting and boycotting elections for their basic demands such as roads, drinking water and housing. But this time, except in one or two areas, we could not see widespread protests with such demands.
Moreover, the just concluded local body elections are for the urban areas. It is in these cities that the Smart City project is being introduced. In cities like Madurai, Nellai and Thanjavur, thousands of people have been deprived of their homes and driven out.
Just days before the announcement of the elections, a notification was issued that most of the slum clearance board tenements in Chennai should be demolished and the houses should be vacated within three months. People were lamenting as they fear that their lives would be doomed, since 25,000 houses would be demolished at the same time. Polling took place in these places without any disruption.
The struggle of the villagers of Paliyapattu in Tiruvannamalai, who were protesting against the destruction of their farmland and the setting up of destructive SIPCOT, failed to get any attention. The villagers in the vicinity of Paliyapattu didn’t bother and voted in the local body elections without the slightest mental anguish.
The people of Tamilnadu are in a state of mind that if elections come, they should vote. They feel that there is no link between the denial of rights and the loss of subsistence and the elections. Over the years, the ruling class has also inculcated in the working people the notion that ‘elections are different and democratic rights are different’.
Then for whom is this ‘root level democracy?’; The local body elections are a ‘democratic’ arrangement for the looting of ‘little Alibabas’ in every party at the root level. In each ward, only those who are able to spend between Rs.10 lakh and Rs.40 lakh were given tickets in the parties. How will they serve the people?
Even after knowing this, the election expenditure limit imposed on candidates by the Election Commission is laughable. Candidates contesting for the post of ward member in Town Panchayat can spend a maximum of Rs.17,000, a Municipal ward member can spend a maximum of Rs.34,000 and for Corporation posts it a maximum of Rs.85,000.
The mocking of ‘Social justice’ in the local body elections
The BJP said that there was no agreement on seat-sharing with the AIADMK and broke away from the alliance and contested the elections lonely. Parties including Naam Tamilar Katchi and Makkal Needhi Maiam also fielded candidates to the tune of their money.
The DMK said that the alliance formed in the last assembly elections will continue. Despite this announcement, the DMK has asked its allies to get their share from the respective DMK District Secretaries. The DMK’s allies were humiliated and exhausted by every District Secretary.
Only one ward in Kumbakonam municipality was allotted to the CPI. In that ward too, the DMK ward secretary contested as an independent candidate. Despite repeated appeals, he paid no heed to it. Finally, Bharathi Murugan of CPI withdrew his nomination.
Not a single ward has been alloted for the VCK in Coimbatore and neither Thirumavalavan’s name nor his portrait has been used by the DMK anywhere in the district. Like Coimbatore, Thirumavalavan’s portrait was not used in many areas. The party’s cadres openly protested against this. Its leader Thirumavalavan had to issue a statement regarding this to pacify the cadres.
The DMK cadres stood independently in some of the seats allotted to MDMK. As their party men were not given tickets, the Congress and the CPM broke their alliance in some areas and contested the local body elections separately.
The DMK cadres protested against allotment of seats to their allies (though only a few wards were allotted); the agitating allies as they didn’t get their due quotas — The ‘social justice’ local body elections became a laughable stock.
Apart from this, there was intra-party factionalism within every party as they didn’t get a seat. Congress State General Secretary P V Tamil Selvan staged a dharna at the party headquarters at Sathyamoorthy Bhavan. Former minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram appealed to the party men to accept the coalition dharma.
In a bid to prevent the public outcry over the violation of ‘coalition dharma’, DMK president M K Stalin said, “The DMK cadres, who are contesting the elections as independent candidates against the DMK allies, should immediately withdraw the nominations; Otherwise strict action will be taken.” The party’s General Secretary Durai Murugan announced the suspension of 56 candidates who contested against the coalition candidates.
The culmination of all this was the indirect election to elect the chairpersons of town panchayats, municipalities and corporations. Many town panchayats and municipalities reserved for the allies by the party leadership were taken over by the DMK through rowdyism. Incidents of kidnapping of other party councillors also took place.
The DMK took over the post of Municipal Chairman in Nellikuppam municipality of Cuddalore district, which was reserved for VCK. The DMK local councillor captured the post of Municipality Chairman in Allinagaram municipality of Theni district, which was allotted to the Congress party, at the last minute. Opposing this the Congress staged a dharna. Puliyur chairman post in Karur district, which was allotted to the CPI, was also captured by a DMK councillor.
Periyanaickenpalayam Town Panchayat of Coimbatore district was allotted to the CPM. CPM candidate N Sivarajan, who had come to file his nomination papers, was attacked and locked up till the elections were over. The DMK councillor grabbed the post of president with the help of officials and police force after attacking and chasing away the CPM cadres.
Elections in Vellalore town panchayat of Coimbatore district and elections for Municipal Chairman in Thirumangalam of Madurai district were suspended due to fight between the DMK factions.
Once elections became business, local body elections are the main source of livelihood for the lower-level party ‘leaders’. Which party can control the violation of ‘party discipline’ by the lower ranks which have ‘dried up’ for the last 10 years without local body elections! Which cadre will just stare knowing that he can easily win when the party is in power!
In this regard, 50% reservation to women in local bodies was considered as a social justice achievement. Practically, all the women who were fielded as candidates were the wives, sisters and daughters of local leaders. In campaigns and banners, the name of the candidate was campaigned in conjunction with the names of those leaders. This is a well-known story!
Is this a victory of dravidian ideology?
The fact that K K Selvam, who was the MLA of Thousand Lights constituency and the Chief Secretary of the DMK, switched over to the BJP and is now re-inducted into the DMK is a testimony to the party’s ‘policy’.
In Kappiyarai of Kanyakumari West district, all party functionaries, including the DMK and the Congress, were trying to ensure an unopposed victory to the BJP by not nominating a candidate. Even after several rounds of talks, it was only the Naam Tamilar Katchi that didn’t withdrawn its candidate.
During the indirect election to elect the Nagercoil Municipal Chairperson post, four DMK councillors voted for the BJP candidate. (The BJP candidate got 24 votes, while the BJP had only 20 votes, including the support of the AIADMK and independents). This exposes the DMK’s ‘policy grip’.
Despite all this, the DMK’s win in the western zone, which was a stronghold of the AIADMK-BJP, had made the opposers of BJP very happy. If so, can the victory of the DMK be taken as the defeat of the BJP? To view the DMK’s western zone victory on this basis is a dangerous understanding.
Unlike other vote bank parties, the BJP is an electoral party of the RSS, a fascist organisation based on the ideology of brahminical – Hindu chauvinism. Unlike other vote parties, BJP is not an organisation that can attract people only by nominal policy and merely charismatic politics.
It is fundamentally irrational to assume that all the foundations of hindu polarisation the BJP had built up in the Coimbatore region for all these years had disappeared in an instant due to DMK’s victory. The question then arises as to how to view the DMK’s victory in the western region.
The DMK’s electoral victory was the victory of K.N.Nehru, Senthil Balaji, Thoppu Venkatachalam, etc., as election in-charge and the money siphoned off and through the attractive schemes and advertisements that the DMK had been carrying out till date.
Senthil Balaji and Thoppu Venkatachalam are former AIADMK hamsters. They knew how to move offcut in the influential western region and accomplish the task.
Moreover, the common sense of the majority of voters is to vote for the ruling party or whichever party that has the chance to win. It is because of this that the ruling party is generally able to win local body elections. In addition, since coming to power, the DMK was exposing AIADMK’s corruption and series of raids were conducted at the homes of its leaders.
The BJP and the AIADMK decided to contest separately and the significant division of the vote bank was also a major reason for the setback of these parties. Even so, the BJP came second and third in majority of the wards in Coimbatore district. It is from this that the strength of the BJP has to be analysed, and not just the victory.
In short, the DMK’s victory was not an ideological victory. Those who talk about Coimbatore are leaving away Kanyakumari. They do not consider why the nine-month rule did not attract the people of Kanyakumari district. It is irrational to rejoice that the BJP had been defeated as it could lead one to inaction. The BJP’s victory had only been temporarily averted.
Behind mocking BJP’s growth
In the recently concluded urban local body elections to 21 Corporations, 138 Municipalities and 490 Town Panchayats in Tamilnadu, the BJP contested alone and won 308 wards. What is the view of the progressive-democratic forces on this?
Their assessment is that the BJP has no strength of its own; It won four seats even in the assembly elections by riding on AIADMK’s back. When the BJP said that it will contest the urban local body elections alone, the progressive-democratic forces ridiculed that “The BJP has dared as there is no NOTA button”.
After the election results were out, BJP leader Annamalai said, “In Tamilnadu, the BJP is growing rapidly. We are the third largest party”. Beyond this exaggeration, the fascist BJP’s chauvinist politics has its foundation in certain areas in Tamilnadu too; This is a danger; We do not consider that anti-fascists need to work actively with the people. On the contrary, the progressive forces are taking comfort in the BJP’s victory.
“The BJP had won the most in Kanyakumari district. Brahmins are predominant in ward no 134 in west Mambalam constituency of Chennai. The BJP won nothing in Coimbatore district. In the 2011 elections, the BJP contested alone and won 226 seats. Now, it had won 308 seats. If you compare the two, the BJP’s growth rate is only 0.63 per cent” – These are all the arguments we hear which tends to undermine BJP’s success.
From this, we put forward our objections. Kanyakumari district is located in Tamilnadu. Whether it should be considered as Periyar’s soil? Moreover, compared to the 2011 elections, the growth rate was 0.63 per cent. Since 2014, the BJP has been at the Centre. Anti-Modi sentiment has been intensifying across the country, especially in Tamilnadu because of Modi’s anti-people schemes, including demonetisation and GST.
From the Jallikattu agitation to the anti-NEET agitation, the Cauvery rights agitation, anti- New Education Policy protest, the anti-Sterlite agitation and many other protests have taken place only after 2011.
On this basis, even if the BJP can repeat its 2011 victory, it can only be considered that it is growing in certain areas. But an additional 0.63 percent growth has been achieved. What’s our reply for this? The boasting claim that “there is no possibility of lotus to bloom in Tamilnadu” can only be viewed as a mere exaggeration.
The police prohibit from speaking “Godse killed Gandhi” on the soil where RSS’s national hero Lord Raman was burnt. But a terrorist who spoke “I am Godse’s ideological granddaughter” was able to contest in the election and campaign. This did not happen in UP. It happened in Tamilnadu.
Ridiculing BJP on one hand as “BJP is competing with NOTA; Single vote BJP”, and “Is winning in a single district a big victory? Is 0.63 per cent growth a development?”- on the other hand is now becoming a culture.
The meme culture is that they twist the matter according to themselves and pick up what is needed and propagate it only to make fun of something/someone, without considering the matter as it is. As far as memes are concerned, there is nothing to consider; Their only purpose is to mock. The negative aspect of memes is that it makes us accustomed to just laughing and passing through many dangerous things.
The progressive forces think only about ridiculing. They fail to analyse. Such a tendency to think of the Fascist Party is dangerous enough to disarm the anti-fascists both in thoughts and in function, which inturn lead to the growth of fascism.
Beyond the election
When compared to the DMK, the BJP got only a few seats. To assume that nothing can be accomplished by this victory, is to deceive ourselves.
Moreover, in this election, the BJP decided not to confine itself to the few seats that will be allocated by the AIADMK. It did not decide to contest alone because that it would win all the contesting seats. The BJP wanted to use this election as an opportunity to propagate its Hindutva chaunistic politics across Tamilnadu and to pose itself as the principal opposition of DMK by completely sidelining the AIADMK.
“The DMK has demolished countless temples, supported a religious conversion mob in the Lavanya issue, cheated Tamilnadu women by not fulfilling various promises, including providing Rs.1,000 to them, disrupting law and order, throwing bombs at our party office” were the BJP’s campaigns in this election. The saffrons forced the DMK to answer each of these.
Such tactics will be the prelude to the BJP to project itself as the only alternative against the DMK in the future, when the people are dissatisfied with the DMK. The BJP’s electoral participation should also be approached from this angle.
On the other hand, the RSS-BJP has no illusions of hoisting their flag in a single election campaign. It is just a step in their long effort to take root in Tamilnadu. Their goal is to progress gradually. If we fail to understand this and just shout “single vote BJP”, it means that we didn’t understand the reality.
In short, this electoral arena is only to assist the fastly advancing fascists. It can never be used as a tool for opponents of fascism.
The ground for anti-fascistism is “beyond elections”. It is centred around protests such as Jallikattu, anti-Sterlite, Shaheen Bagh and Delhi Chalo.