The election narrative in Tamil Nadu by the DMK party is that that while they were in power, they had empowered the socially backward social outcasts and that they had consistently devised economic programs for the upliftment of the economic conditions of such voiceless people.

The other party AIADMK, predominantly relies on their efforts at upliftment of the poor and the downtrodden without any discrimination.

Both are right in what they claim and assert. But as a voter one has to clarify what powers the electorate actually vests the elected MLAs with? Once we establish that fact, it would be easier to find out, what could each have done with such power.

Legislative power relating to the State list and the Concurrent List are the domains on which the MLAs could legislate on. The power to tax and spend such taxes and also to borrow in the name of the state, and leaving a debt for the state to take care off is also within the power of that legislature. But the important power is the power to legislate and make laws to maintain law and order and fulfill the hopes as expressed in the Directive Principles of State policy.

Enduring power is the legislative power to empower the socially backward classes, or so the DMK thought, having championed the cause under the teachings of EVR. India has a peculiar issue of caste, which by its very design could be empowering or debilitating. It is in empowering and liberating of those the depressed classes which was concentrated by DMK, while it was in power and it had ensured that much legislation had been carried through and implemented, which granted positive discrimination in favour of those depressed classes. However, the generations which had laboured under those unwritten caste rules had passed away and the legislations made in those days have reduced the gap which existed then leaving no scope for the younger generations to be guided by them except in small towns and villages of Tamil Nadu.

That should be seen as the period between 1967 to 1976. Which the late Kalaignar Karunanidhi used to describe as the ஒளி நிறைந்த ஒன்பது வருடம்.

Thereafter came the period of Puratchi Thalaivar MGR, which lasted from 1977 to 1987. During his regime much dole was measured out from the state government exchequer. It was a reign of providing relief to the masses from their day to day economic burden.

Yet, MGR brought in a special quota for persons purely based on economic consideration, which had a negative political repercussion, which he quickly withdrew. By then MGR had understood that he shouldn’t make any attempt to dilute the benefits legislatively granted to the downtrodden castes. Any accommodation on economic considerations was seen by the voting public as the usurpation by the upper castes of the facility created by the DMK legislatively.

I’d like to quote the Indian Express on this:

MGR further declared that certain percentage of reservation would be provided to poor among the forward communities. However, he backed down after the AIADMK’s virtual rout in the Lok Sabha polls of 1980.

The MGR government issued an order (G.O.Ms.1156), dated July 2, 1979, fixing Rs 9,000 as the annual income ceiling for BCs to get the benefits of reservation. To justify the G.O, the government cited the recommendations of the Backward Classes Commission, under the Chairmanship of AN Sattanathan, submitted in 1970. Then general secretary of Dravidar Kazhagam K Veeramani (now president) and late DMK president M Karunanidhi immediately opposed the move and, with many other leaders, spearheaded protests against it.

They argued that the order was unconstitutional and unreasonable, and said, “The Constitution clearly defines the beneficiaries as socially and educationally BCs. Introducing an economic element will be a wrong remedy to a malady which is essentially social.”

So the fact is that, MGR’s belief was not that strong relating to those that were held by MK. But MGR made a little tweak to the Dravidian narrative by earning a name as a generous giver, devoid of caste considerations. Even today AIADMK continues to be in the same mould.

Dr. J Jayalalitha tried a legislation on conversion, which in 2002 was thought of to be an effort to get close to a national party, the Ordinance was “Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religious Ordinance, 2002”.

These areas of carving out a quota for the economically backward, and prohibition of forcible conversion had already taken deep roots within the AIADMK, however they could not be made into enduring legislations as the people reacted, though at the nudging and instigation of the ever vigilant DMK, against such dilution of social justice, and Liberty to convert and be converted.

These have crystallised well and now what these two parties stand for is very clear – as each had allied with national parties which are in alignment with the core thinking of either the DMK or the AIADMK.

I am not sure if Dr. J Jayalalitha would have got the reservation of 69% for the Backward classes placed in the IX Schedule of the Constitution in 1994, had she been assured of her place with the masses, which she acquired subsequently in the 21st century!

So this election is very interesting in the sense that the real fight is between what these two Dravidian parties really stand for. That each of the Dravidian parties is vying with the other to dole out largesse out of the tax money is inconsequential. Tax money has to be spent anyway on maintenance, implementation of programs and infrastructure building. Corruption is not an issue in Tamil Nadu, though political parties accuse each other for the optics, and TN is the only state which electorally handed over the state exchequer to a person convicted by courts. I believe that there are provisions within the Constitution for remitting sentences and pardoning convicts, which i believe should have been exercised by the State when such is the will of the people, however to grant a pardon using those provisions in a corruption case would have definitely harmed the polity more! Anyway no attempt was made on those lines.

When people are not bothered about corruption and elect a party whose supremo had been convicted, one must arrive at a conclusion that those who had been accused and convicted were not corrupt above the plimsoll line mentally demarcated by the public; or that people thought that those who were themselves as culpable, cast the first stone and took advantage of the system, or that corruption was absolutely inconsequential.

From the narrative which is expressed, an outsider is bound to believe that the votes would be cast on what is being uttered. But i for one believe that Thamizhans and Thamizhachis collectively think differently from what is touted during elections by parties in justification of their alliances. The conflation, of the legislative power and the tax money spending power, doesn’t work with the Thamizhs.

I am impelled to quote what G K Chesterton in his essay had to say while contrasting the French with the English:

Let a fool hate France: if the fool loves it he will soon be a knave. He will certainly admire it, not only for the things that are not creditable, but actually for the things that are not there. He will admire the grace and indolence of the most industrious people in the world. He will admire the romance and fantasy of the most determinedly respectable and common-place people in the world. This mistake the Englishman will make if he admires France too hastily; but the mistake that he makes about France will be slight compared with the mistake that he makes about himself. An Englishman who professes really to like French realistic novels, really to be at home in a French modern theatre, really to experience no shock on first seeing the savage French caricatures, is making a mistake very dangerous for his own sincerity. He is admiring something he does not understand. He is reaping where he has not sown, and taking up where he has not laid down; he is trying to taste the fruit when he has never toiled over the tree. He is trying to pluck the exquisite fruit of French cynicism, when he has never tilled the rude but rich soil of French virtue.