Yet another tectonic shift?: THE HINDU EDITORIAL

Yet another tectonic shift?: THE HINDU EDITORIAL

Rajinikanth’s plunge into politics is well considered, and could transform Tamil Nadu’s electoral landscape
Yet another tectonic shift?: THE HINDU EDITORIAL
The decision of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth to try his hand at politics has added a totally new dimension to the Tamil Nadu political theatre, which has been in turmoil for more than a year now. Except for a hiccup in 1988-90, Tamil Nadu politics has never been in such tumult and uncertainty since the demise of Jayalalithaa in end 2016. Mr. Rajinikanth’s decision to wear the political hat appears to be well thought out, as the State seems to be poisedfor yet another tectonic shift in its political history. A recall of how such shifts in Tamil Nadu politics in the past have changed the political landscape of the State may help one make an intelligent guess about the likely impact of yet another shift.

In the past

Politics in Tamil Nadu had experienced three major tectonic shifts since the advent of democratic polity. The first one fully Dravidianised the State’s politics and the next two partly de-Dravidianised it. The first shift was the ouster of the national party, the Congress, from power in 1967, and forever thereafter. The next was the expulsion of the redoubtable M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1972 and the emergenceof the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as the main challenger to the DMK, reducing Tamil Nadu politics to just a play between two Dravidian cousins thereafter. This historic Dindigul Lok Sabha by-election in 1973, which the newly formed AIADMK won, signalled the transfer of anti-DMK votes to the AIADMK as MGR was seen as more capable of defeating the DMK. The AIADMK relegated the Congress led by the towering K. Kamaraj and the DMK led by the mighty M. Karunanidhi to the second and third spots, respectively. Since then, the anti-DMK voters have been unwaveringly loyal to the AIADMK, except perhaps only once in 1996. The third shift was the split in the AIADMK following MGR’s death and the advent of Jayalalithaa, who rejuvenated the party as more powerful than before. While the first shift in 1967 drove Tamil Nadu into Dravidian exclusivism, the second and the third diluted the Dravidian content of the State polity, by forcing the AIADMK and DMK to align with national parties. Slowly, the national-minded voters increasingly turned to the AIADMK, seeing it as less exclusivist Dravidian in its impulses, further shrinking the space for national parties in the State.

Vacuum and uncertainty

But, recently, the sudden demise of Jayalalithaa and the equally abrupt retreat of Mr. Karunanidhi from politics forced by age — both occurring almost simultaneously — have completely changed the settled assumptions and accepted grammar of the State’s politics. An unprecedented leadership vacuum has enveloped the two parties and Tamil Nadu and led to an uncertainty, never faced, surrounding the State’s politics. And, more recently, the shocking win of sidelined AIADMK leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran and the amazing defeat of the DMK, which forfeited its deposit, in the recent R.K. Nagar by-election have deepened the uncertainty, indicating that the solution to the uncertainty may not come from either of the two Dravidian parties at all. This has put the DMK on the back foot. When Jayalalithaa passed away, the DMK had assumed that it would return to power if the Edappadi K. Palaniswami government fell. It even began working with Mr. Dhinakaran to pull it down. But the reverse in R.K. Nagar seems to have compelled the DMK to review its strategy to force early elections, which it may not want so early now.

Rajinikanth’s advantages

Clearly, the monolithic Dravidian politics, which dominated the State for 50 years, is defreezing, perhaps even melting down. This is the context for Mr. Rajinikanth’s plunge. He has said he would form his party and fight the next Assembly polls, whenever it was held. But, with that eventuality nowhere near, Mr. Rajinikanth seems to have bought for himself enough time to organise his party, shape its philosophy and policies before launching it. The way he has handled the major announcement and managed the excitement it has generated, and now consolidating his fan clubs with the use of technology, indicates that he seems to have been well advised not to rush in, but instead gather his forces for what he first called as the war that lay ahead. The announcement of the virtual entry far ahead of the actual one seems to make strategic sense. He has undoubtedly taken advantage of the uncertainty in the State’s politics by registering himself with its people as the new force strongly in the reckoning in the next elections. Of the many factors that may go in his favour, the anti-DMK voters who have been loyal to the AIADMK may shift to him as now he, and not the weakened AIADMK, may be seen as the one who can do it. Also, the anti-AIADMK votes, of which the DMK has been the main beneficiary, may shift to him. Another factor that may favour him is the entry of more than 37 lakh new voters crossing 18 by the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and a further 23 lakh by 2021 on the electoral rolls of Tamil Nadu. With the two Dravidian parties not as attractive to the youth as before — the DMK leader M.K. Stalin himself has lamented that politics does not attract the youth — it is logical for Mr. Rajinikanth to position himself as the new face. Puritans will argue that Mr. Rajinikanth’s entry will promote a personality cult that undermines merit and principles in politics. While no one can say that a personality cult is good, equally, no one will disagree that dynastic politics is worse as it is a personality cult by inheritance as in the example of Indira Gandhi passing on the baton to Rajiv Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi to Rahul Gandhi now. Given the experience of the DMK, Mr. Rajinikanth should know that if he avoids the dynastic shadow over his politics, his family will be his personal asset; otherwise, it will become a political liability.

Making a connect

Significantly, his entry has not met with any major opposition though some fringe groups have questioned his being an ‘outsider’ in terms of his roots. The apparent Tamil chauvinistic impulses of the Dravidian movement did not inhibit MGR, a Malayali, from winning and ruling Tamil Nadu, nor did that undermine Jayalalithaa’s domination in the State. The inclusive cultural DNA of Tamil Nadu, which the chauvinist image of Tamil Nadu masks, is bound to accommodate Mr. Rajinikanth as well. More importantly, most new political parties in Tamil Nadu have connected themselves to Dravidian ancestry. But Mr. Rajinikanth’s branding of his politics as “spiritual” too seems a well-thought-out idea to distinguish and distance himself from the anti-god moorings of the politics of the State where people are becoming increasingly religious. In sum, Mr. Rajinikanth’s political advent has the potential to erode the stagnating and fatiguing DMK and AIADMK and sweep away the smaller local parties. With profoundchanges in the offing, interesting days lie ahead.


1) Turmoil
Meaning: A state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty.
Example: “The country was in turmoil”
Synonyms: Confusion, Upheaval(s)
Antonyms: Calm, Peace
2) Hiccup
Meaning: A temporary or minor problem or setback.
Example: “Just a little hiccup in our usual wonderful service”
3) Tumult
Meaning: A state of confusion or disorder.
Example: “The whole neighbourhood was in a state of fear and tumult”
Synonyms: Turmoil, Confusion
Antonyms: Peace, Tranquillity
4) Demise
Meaning: The end or failure of an enterprise or institution.
Example: “The demise of industry”
Synonyms: End, Break-up
Antonyms: Start
5) Poised
Meaning: Having a composed and self-assured manner.
Example:”Not every day you saw that poised, competent kid distressed”
Synonyms: Self-possessed, Self-assured
Antonyms: Excited, Flustered, Inelegant
6) Tectonic
Meaning: A tectonic change is a very important one that will have major effects.
Example: He led the company through a period of tectonic shifts in the movie industry.
7) Expulsion
Meaning: The action of forcing someone to leave an organization.
Example:”His expulsion from the union”
Synonyms: Removal, Debarment
Antonyms: Admission
8) Redoubtable
Meaning: (Of a person) formidable, especially as an opponent.
Example: “He was a redoubtable debater”
Synonyms: Formidable, Awe-inspiring
9) Emergence
Meaning: The process of coming into existence or prominence.
Example: “The emergence of the environmental movement”
Synonyms: Appearance, Arrival
Antonyms: Disappearance
10) Relegated
Meaning: Assign an inferior rank or position to.
Example: “They aim to prevent women from being relegated to a secondary role”
Synonyms: Downgrade, Lower
Antonyms: Upgrade, Promote
11) Towering
Meaning: Extremely tall, especially in comparison with the surroundings.
Example: “Hari looked up at the towering buildings”
Synonyms: High, Tall
Antonyms: Low, Short
12) Unwaveringly
Meaning: Never changing or becoming weaker.
Example: Her belief in the project has been unwavering.
13) Perhaps
Meaning: Used to express uncertainty or possibility.
Example: “Perhaps I should have been frank with him”
Synonyms: Maybe, Possibly
14) Rejuvenated
Meaning: Make (someone or something) look or feel better, younger, or more vital.
Example: “A bid to rejuvenate the town centre”
Synonyms: Revive, Revitalize
15) Diluted
Meaning: Make (something) weaker in force, content, or value by modification or the addition of other elements.
Example: “The reforms have been diluted”
Synonyms: Diminish, Reduce
Antonyms: Intensify
16) Shrinking
Meaning: Become or make smaller in size or amount.
Example: “The workforce shrank to a thousand”
Synonyms: Get smaller
Antonyms: Expand, Increase
17) Abrupt
Meaning: Sudden and unexpected.
Example:”I was surprised by the abrupt change of subject”
Synonyms: Sudden, Immediate
Antonyms: Gradual, Unhurried
18) Enveloped
Meaning: Wrap up, cover, or surround completely.
Example:”A figure enveloped in a black cloak”
Synonyms: Surround, Cover
19) Forfeited
Meaning: Lose or give up (something) as a necessary consequence of something else.
Example:”She didn’t mind forfeiting an hour in bed to muck out the horses”
Synonyms: Surrender, Relinquish
Antonyms: Retain
20) Compelled
Meaning: Force or oblige (someone) to do something.
Example: “A sense of duty compelled Harry to answer her questions”
Synonyms: Force, Coerce into
21) Plunge
Meaning: Suddenly bring into a specified condition or state.
Example:”For a moment the scene was illuminated, then it was plunged back into darkness”
Synonyms: Throw, Cast, Pitch
22) Consolidating
Meaning: Combine (a number of things) into a single more effective or coherent whole.
Example: “All manufacturing activities have been consolidated in new premises”
Synonyms: Combine, Unite
23) Lay
Meaning: Put (something) down gently or carefully.
Example: “She laid the baby in his cot”
Synonyms: Put, Place
Antonyms: Pick up
24) Reckoning
Meaning: A person’s opinion or judgement.
Example: “By ancient reckoning, bacteria are plants”
Synonyms: Opinion, View
25) Lamented
Meaning: Express passionate grief about.
Example: “He was lamenting the death of his infant daughter”
Synonyms: Mourn, grieve (for/over)
Antonyms: Celebrate, Rejoice
26) Puritans
Meaning: A member of a group of English Protestants of the late 16th and 17th centuries who regarded the Reformation of the Church under Elizabeth I as incomplete and sought to simplify and regulate forms of worship.
Example: “The Puritans, who were Protestant fundamentalists, were also devout believers in the Bible.”
27) Cult
Meaning: A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members.
Example:”A network of Satan-worshipping cults”
Synonyms: Sect, Religious group
28) Dynastic
Meaning: Relating to a succession of people from the same family who play a prominent role in business, politics, or another field.
Example:”The plot concerns the dynastic struggles of two brothers”
29) Asset
Meaning: A useful or valuable thing or person.
Example: “Quick reflexes were his chief assets”
Synonyms: Benefit, Advantage
Antonyms: Liability, Handicap
30) Fringe
Meaning: The outer, marginal, or extreme part of an area, group, or sphere of activity.
Example:”His uncles were on the fringes of crooked activity”
Synonyms: Unconventional, Unorthodox
Antonyms: Mainstream, Middle
31) Apparent
Meaning: Clearly visible or understood; obvious.
Example: “For no apparent reason she laughed”
Synonyms: Evident, Plain
Antonyms: Unclear, Obscure
32) Chauvinistic
Meaning: Believing or showing an unreasonable belief that your own country or race is the best or most important.
Example: The crowd was enthusiastically singing chauvinistic patriotic songs.
33) Impulses
Meaning: Something that causes something to happen or happen more quickly; an impetus.
Example:”An added impulse to this process of renewal”
Synonyms: Inspiration, Stimulation
34) Inhibit
Meaning: Hinder, restrain, or prevent (an action or process).
Example: “Cold inhibits plant growth”
Synonyms: Impede, Hinder
Antonyms: Assist, Encourage
35) Ancestry
Meaning: One’s family or ethnic descent.
Example: “He was proud of his Irish ancestry”
Synonyms: Descent, Parentage
36) Moorings
Meaning: A place where a boat or ship is moored.
Example: “They tied up at Water Gypsy’s permanent moorings”
37) Advent
Meaning: The arrival of a notable person or thing.
Example: “The advent of television”
Synonyms: Arrival, Appearance
Antonyms: Departure, Disappearance
38) Stagnating
Meaning: Cease developing; become inactive or dull.
Example: “Teaching can easily stagnate into a set of routines”
Synonyms:  Become stagnant, Do nothing
Antonyms: Rise, Boom
39) Profound
Meaning: (Of a state, quality, or emotion) very great or intense.
Example: “Profound feelings of disquiet”
Synonyms:  Heartfelt, Intense
Antonyms: Superficial, Mild
40) Offing
Meaning: Likely to happen soon.
Example: With an election in the offing, the prime minister is keen to maintain his popularity.

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