Editor's Note: As Tamil Nadu heads into poll frenzy, the overarching theme of the campaigns — both by the ruling party as well as the Opposition — is that of governance. While Opposition parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) claim a breakdown of governance in the current regime, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam argues that governance has never been better in the state.
In this series, Firstpost takes a dive into various aspects of governance in the past five years to analyse the merits and demerits of each party’s claim. The first part of the series examined criticism, the second part looked at how populist politics are eating away at the economy, the third in the series sought to explore corruption, while the fourth part investigated the role played by caste in Tamil Nadu politics.
When a politician steeped in traditional rhetoric suddenly decides to abandon the omnipresent "vella sattai karai veshti" (Tamil for white shirt and dhoti with a border-lining of party colours) for trousers and shirts, it certainly warrants a closer look. That is what Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) scion MK Stalin did in September last year. Stalin could be seen riding scooters, walking in fields, riding in autorickshaws and buses, in an effort to be what his rival, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa could not - accessible and approachable.
The Pattali Makkal Katchi's (PMK) chief ministerial candidate, former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss too has donned the role of a trendy alternative to the usual suspects. Anbumani has been seen playing kabaddi with young boys and interacting with youngsters as often as he can manage.
All leaders except All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief J Jayalalithaa are on social media. Ninety-two-year-old M Karunanidhi, the DMK's chief too has a team that updates his Twitter and Facebook accounts regularly. Leader of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) 'Captain' Vijaykanth too has an app through which requests for meeting the leader may be sent. All of these leaders have made an effort to interact with the populace, especially the youth, due to their own surveys making this crucial for garnering votes. But students don't seem particularly impressed.
"Politicians have never interacted with students," said Mubeen, a student leader of the All India Students' Federation in Chennai. "Now because it is election time some leaders are turning to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. All this interaction will disappear in three months, once elections are over. There is no attraction towards politics or politicians from students. We feel politics are dirty," he added.
Only the ruling party has remained immune to calls from students and youngsters for engaging with them on any platform. The AIADMK believes that welfare measures for students, such as monthly stipends, 33 lakh free laptops and other benefits would stand them in good stead in the polls. Jayalalithaa continues, as her critics point out, to remain in her ivory tower. A brash new generation though awaits engagement, a good verbal duel if possible and change.
"There is definitely a need for students and politicians to interact," said Uchi Makali, State secretary, Students' Federation of India. "But this is only done for election time. It is good for students. But student politics have been crushed by both parties. We don't have strong unions anymore. The AIADMK has institutionalised corruption in this regime by selling faculty posts. Students have no faith in either the AIADMK or the DMK. In fact, students want a credible alternative," he said.
Other demands put forth by students include putting an end to commercialisation of education and to the capitation fee racket.
"Student unions need to be brought into college," said Mubeen of the All-India Students Federation. "Presidency College elections have not been held in this year, management has not permitted it. Our second issue is that there is a huge shortage of teachers in colleges, students are not getting quality education due to this. Private colleges and schools need to be taken over by the state government. There is no check or balance in fees or facilities," he added.
While students hunt for an alternative, politicians desperately try to woo them. Close to 60 lakh young voters go to polls this year. Whether this strategy will work will be seen only later in 2016.