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Stalin Could be Eyeing National Role Before 2024 Battle Royale

Neelambaran A |
The presence of major opposition parties at the inauguration of the DMK’s Delhi office hinted at the party’s bigger plans.
Stalin Could be Eyeing National Role Before 2024 Battle Royale

Image credit: The Indian Express

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)  president and Tamil Nadu (TN) chief minister (CM) MK Stalin has been trying to project himself as a strong opposition leader with a different vision against that of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the last few years.

With the DMK being the third-largest party in the Lok Sabha with 23 members, the inauguration of the party’s office Anna-Kalaignar Arivalayam in Delhi on Saturday is being seen as an attempt by Stalin to have a national role. In a letter written to the party workers, he said that the Delhi office is a “compelling symbol of the indispensable role that the DMK and the Dravidian model plays in the national politics”.

The inauguration became a platform for the coming together of anti-BJP parties, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, Samajwadi Party president chief Akhilesh Yadav, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and National Conference chairperson Farooq Abdullah.

With the BJP gaining an increasing foothold with its aggressive brand of Hindutva politics, opposition parties could come together to present a united front against the saffron party in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

ROLE OF DMK

The Left parties, which have always opposed the BJP’s divisive and communal agenda, had played a key in ensuring a stable government in the form of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2004. Now, the 23rd Party Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has invited Stalin to a public meeting to discuss the challenges to federalism in Kannur, Kerala, on April 9.

After assuming power in May 2021, the DMK has been a strong critic of the BJP’s Hindutva politics. When it was in the Opposition, the party had slammed the three farm laws, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Entrance Cum Eligibility Test (NEET). As soon as the DMK came to power, it passed resolutions against the farm laws and the CAA.

The CM’s comment on the BJP’s claim of becoming the third force in Tamil Nadu received a lot of attention. “A boy gets 90 marks in an examination. Another student gets a score of 50. Another one gets 10 points. Would you appreciate a 10-point scorer finishing third?” he said during an interview.

According to TN-based senior journalist ‘Tharasu’ Shyam, Stalin has “accepted that the BJP is a force to reckon with at the national level”. “While he has downplayed its claims on Tamil Nadu, a wider Opposition unity is necessary to stop the BJP juggernaut,” he told Newsclick.

Despite Stalin’s bid to project himself as prominent opposition leader, Shyam feels that the DMK leader is not a contender for the post of prime minister. “Stalin is doing what his father M Karunanidhi did in 2004”.

The DMK was one of the parties instrumental in the formation of the UPA, which was also provided outside support by the Left based on a common minimum programme from 2004 to 2008.

Recalling the 2004 formula, Shyam said that an electoral victory is possible even without a prime ministerial candidate. “Dr Manmohan Singh was a surprise choice after the election. Considering the experience of winning elections without a prime ministerial candidate, the same formula should be applicable in 2024 too with an important role of the DMK in coordinating regional parties.”

IS IT POSSIBLE TO DEFEAT BJP?

The role of regional parties and the Congress is more importance as a compromise between these forces is essential in accumulating anti-BJP votes. “The parties must learn their lessons from the results in Uttar Pradesh and Goa, where a divided Opposition played to the BJP’s advantage. The parties may not concede seats during Assembly elections, but they must be ready to do so in a General Election. The Congress must strike a deal with other parties,” Shyam said.

On the BJP’s increasing influence and the Congress’s shrinking vote share, Shyam said, “The number of BJP MLAs is lower than that of the Congress and other regional parties put together. Defeating the BJP is possible with a united opposition.”

Referring to the BJP’s defeat in 2004, Shyam recalled that despite the party’s ‘India Shining’ campaign and the public image of then-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, “the BJP was defeated. The same can be done in 2024 as well”. 

ROLE OF LEFT PARTIES

Inaugurating the CPI(M)’s 23rd state conference in Madurai, general secretary Sitaram Yechury explained in detail about the role of his party, the DMK and other regional forces ahead of the 2024 election. 

It is important to isolate and defeat the BJP. All the sections of the population are under attack while federalism and the Constitution are being undermined. The secular and democratic forces must come together  to stop and reverse privatisation and reservations. The role of the DMK and the chief minister becomes very important. Tamil Nadu has shown that if secular, democratic forces come together, the BJP and its allies can be defeated,” Yechury said.

Terming Stalin as an acceptable face to non-BJP CMs, Yechury asked him to take up the key role of coordinating with the regional, secular and democratic forces.

Venkatesh Athreya, a Marxian economist, feels that the alternative projected purely for the 2024 election is not on par with the Left and democratic front aspired by the CPI(M). “There is a need to build a combination that can maximise anti-BJP votes based on the CPI(M)’s political line. The attacks on secularism and federalism must be prevented by a broader secular, democratic and progressive force that offers an alternative to the present system,” he told Newsclick

On the issue of arriving at a common economic by the Left and other regional parties, Athreya said, “After the implementation of neo-liberal policy in 1991, most regional parties followed it. But they are reconsidering it now. The formation of the national platform of trade unions is one such sign of unity among other political forces.”

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