The run-up to the 16th Lok Sabha elections is turning out to be as much a game about political invention (à la the Aam Aadmi Party) as about political re-invention. Although the innumerable claimants to the Dravida Kazhagam political legacy make the task particularly difficult for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, it is not shying away from the challenge. Its recently-released manifesto and list of candidates is an indicator of the way its mind is working. The party seems to have settled on one cardinal principle — to go back to the past and retrieve what it believes to be its pristine self. Plunging deep into its kitty of ideas, the party seems to have retrieved its old association with the underdogs. Its renewed emphasis on social justice and promise to push for scheduled tribe status for fishermen and extend reservations to the private sector are a reflection of this idea. But the other attempt at re-invention is more interesting. The DMK has decided to remember its past only till its glorious era as part of the first United Progressive Alliance government and to forget the rest. The re-installation of both A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran as honourable leaders and worthy candidates for another stint in Parliament shows that the party is eager to wash off a taint that it believes stuck to it only because of its partnership with the Congress. Since that partnership no longer exists, the DMK thinks it unnecessary to stay burdened with a sense of guilt.
The DMK’s rediscovery of the innocence of Messrs Raja and Maran — both crucial to the party’s fight in Tamil Nadu either because of their mass appeal or money power or close links with the chosen heir of the party supremo, M. Karunanidhi — puts paid to the notion of corruption being as serious an issue in the 2014 elections as the AAP would have people believe. The issue of corruption also seems to be an afterthought for the Bharatiya Janata Party. Had it been otherwise, B.S. Yeddyurappa would not have had such an easy re-entry into the party in Karnataka. In Tamil Nadu, narrow calculations of caste and the heft wielded by politicians at the local level will decide the outcome. Little wonder that the BJP is trying its best to work out its alliance with as many parties as possible. That is also why a corruption-laden Congress and the relatively corruption-free Left, both having to go it alone in Tamil Nadu, seem lost at sea.