Amidst renewed friction with BJP, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin all set to attend Patna Opposition conclave

Stalin urged all secular-minded parties to come together at the national level to oust the BJP and 'save India's democracy'.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 21, 2023 | 11:10 AMUpdatedJun 21, 2023 | 12:32 PM

Stalin at the memorial to late chief minister M Karunanidhi, along with Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Tejashwi Prasad Yadav. (Twitter)

The upcoming Opposition conclave being organised by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna on Friday, 23 June, has become a focus of attention in Tamil Nadu at the time of a fresh face-off between the ruling DMK and the BJP over the arrest of Minister V Senthil Balaji.

Chief Minister MK Stalin — who recently warned the BJP against taking on the DMK — reiterated on Tuesday that he would attend the meeting of non-BJP parties and “strengthen the hands of the parties” opposed to the saffron party.

The reiteration came at Tiruvarur in the presence of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.

Stalin, who has been spearheading efforts to bring the Opposition together ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, was in the town to inaugurate the Kalaignar Kottam — built as part of the birth centenary celebrations of late chief minister M Karunanidhi.

At the event, he said he would attend the meeting as Kalaignar’s (as Karunanidhi was affectionately called) Thalapathy (general) to “save India’s democracy”.

Related: ‘Don’t dare touch us,’ Stalin warns BJP amidst row over Balaji’s arrest

Nitish Kumar misses event

Nitish Kumar, the prime mover of the Opposition unity bid and who was scheduled to attend the event, had to give it a miss as he was indisposed.

“However, he (Nitish Kumar) called me over phone today and expressed regrets that he could not participate in the inaugural of the Kalaignar Kottam. His message was read out here,” Stalin said, thanking the Bihar chief minister and his deputy for participating in the event.

Tejashwi, son of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad, arrived at Tiruchirappalli by a special flight and later flew in a helicopter to reach Tiruvarur.

He was received by Youth Welfare and Sports Development Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin.

Related: How DMK has been taking on the BJP politically — and legally

Mobilising for 2024

Stalin said that the 2024 Lok Sabha election would be crucial and the right time to oust the BJP from power “for the future benefit of the country”.

Contending that all Opposition parties were facing a critical situation, and underlining the need to save India’s democracy, the Tamil Nadu chief minister appealed to all like-minded and secular parties to come together at the national level and prevent the BJP from coming to power again.

Allowing a free run to the BJP would be detrimental not only to democracy, but to Tamil Nadu as well, he contended.

“We are facing a crisis to protect India’s democracy. If we don’t, then no one will. India’s as well as Tamil Nadu’s future will become detrimental if the BJP is allowed to return to power again,” the DMK chief said.

Related: Four key takeaways from MK Stalin’s Social Justice Conference

Call to cadres

Stalin exhorted party cadres to work toward fulfilling Kalaignar’s dreams and gear up to win all the 40 Lok Sabha seats, including the lone Puducherry constituency.

Tejashwi Yadhav, who inaugurated the Mutheuvelar library on the occasion, spoke in a similar vein and urged all democratic forces to unite at the national level to protect the country and safeguard social justice.

The nearly 7,000 sq ft Kalaignar Kottam was built at a cost of ₹12 crore by the Dayalu Ammal Foundation at Kattur village.

It comprises of a massive gallery showcasing the photos of Karunanidhi, besides two marriage halls and a library. A statue of the late chief minister has also been installed at the Kottam.

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DMK at the forefront

The DMK has been at the forefront when it comes to challenging the Union government — both politically as well as legally — on policy matters, the move away from federalism, the usurping of state powers, and the imposition of Hindi.

In April, Chief Minister Stalin organised the All India Federation for Social Justice (AIFSJ) that brought together leaders of non-BJP parties from across the country, with few exceptions like YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP.

Even though the AIFSJ’s coordinator and DMK MP P Wilson said the event was apolitical, with a focus on social justice issues, leaders like Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien were candid about calling it what it was — a political platform to bring parties on board to take on the BJP.

While it was not the first time that a regional party has attempted to build a non-BJP front, the 3 April event was by far the most successful in bringing a galaxy of non-BJP players on board.

One of the key takeaways from the conference was that the narrative of social justice could become the glue that helps Opposition parties stick together ahead of the 2024 election.

The demand for social justice could become the crux of a possible common minimum programme for a united Opposition, especially given that it takes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP’s deriding of social welfare schemes as “freebies” or “revdi” culture.

Related: Stalin says govt may take legal route against Governor holding Bills

The legal challenges

The DMK is one of few political parties that has been systematically opposing key policy decisions of the BJP-led Union government by mounting legal challenges.

In December, the party filed a review petition in the Supreme Court challenging the verdict upholding the 103rd Amendment brought in by the BJP-led Union Government to provide 10 percent reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) among the upper castes in jobs and education.

A few days before the EWS case, RS Bharathi, the DMK’s organising secretary, filed an additional affidavit in the Supreme Court challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), predominantly on the grounds that it was “arbitrary” and discriminated against the “Tamil race” as it does not take into consideration the plight of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees.

Calling for the law to be declared unconstitutional, null and void, and ultra vires of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution, the DMK also pointed out that CAA went against the fabric of the nation’s secular principles as it kept Muslims out of its purview.

Even earlier, the DMK impleaded itself in the case heard by the apex court against the distribution of “freebies” by political parties at a time when Prime Minister Modi and other BJP leaders where accusing Opposition parties of promoting a “revdi culture” in the country.

The Dravidian party argued that there was no straightjacket formula to decide what scheme could be classified as a “freebie”.

It said that in “no imaginable reality” could a welfare scheme providing a free service, and introduced with an “intent to secure social order and economic justice under Article 38– to minimise the inequalities in income, status, facilities and opportunities” — be construed as a “freebie”.

(With PTI inputs)