In the midst of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent high-profile visit to southern States, an interesting political development in Chennai slipped under the radar. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin addressed the first ever All-India Federation of Social Justice, which was floated last year, to fight for the empowerment of OBCs, Dalits and scheduled tribes.
In a virtual meeting, the Tamil Nadu CM gathered a host of non-BJP leaders from parties ranging from the Congress, RJD, SP, TMC, the Left parties and JMM. The meeting called for a national caste census and the streamlining of the reservation system. It was also severely critical of the Centre’s move to implement 10 per cent reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
Given how squeamish the Congress has (as has the BJP) been about this issue, it was interesting to see the Congress being a part of this forum.
The meeting was also Stalin’s attempt to forge an opposition front against the BJP in the run-up the Assembly elections this year and next year’s general elections.
Stalin here seems to be following his late father MK Karunanidhi’s footsteps in trying to make a national presence. It was in mid-1984 after then PM Indira Gandhi dismissed NT Rama Rao’s government in Andhra Pradesh that Karunanidhi assembled an impressive array of non-Congress leaders on the Marina beach to protest against the Centre. For the next decade or so the DMK was an important partner of the two Third Front governments at the Centre.
But Stalin in his attempt to make a national play is up against a dominant BJP.
Also regional parties’ dilemma today is how much space they must to cede to a much weakened Congress in forging an Opposition unity.
The Assembly election results would provide an important pointer to Opposition moves.