One promise by the DMK in the recent elections was the provision of a colour TV to every poor household. The economic rationality of this decision can be gauged easily...What other way of promoting your channel than this?
The AIADMK is not far behind in the corporate stakes. It has a propaganda channel of its own, an even more rabidly hagiographic Jaya TV named eponymously after its literal dictator, J.Jayalalithaa. If the DMK has an established patron-clientalistic setup that runs from top to bottom and had been built over the years through effective propaganda and the usage of identity politics, the AIADMK represents the apogee of the very same setup, extrapolated to the highest point of patron-clientalism.
Both these formations have steady votebanks among particular caste groups (which further are entrenched in hierarchical socio-economic positions in villages) and have consanguinous linkages with the regional bourgeosie, an ideal combination of semi-feudal and regional bourgeosie linkages in effect. The ability to forge alliances with other political units which are not part of the above setup makes the difference in elections.
Basically therefore nothing much separates these two formations in the issue of ideology. Both units were formed from the throes of the rationality movement that took a distinct caste identity basis as fundamental for political mobilization and social change. Identity politics in Tamil Nadu has indeed inflicted radical change in the composition and circulation of elites but the basic exploitative tendencies remain and abound even further to certain extent.
The space for parties subscribing to ideologies and clear class groups, and arguing for redistribution, has therefore been narrowed down because of the intermeshing of caste identity and class positions. Political Consciousness starts and ends with identification of patrons from respective identity groups and this explains the rather regressed political scenario in Tamil Nadu.
There is hope for change though. As inequalities have increased and the vagaries of the policies of appeasing the regional bourgeosie have created new contradictions, differentiations on class bases are being intensified. Even in the case of identity groups, the lowest order groups, the Dalits have faced even greater subjugation and exploitation under groups that were mobilized hitherto on the goal and basis of social transformation and rational reorganization of hierarchical society. Perhaps a class combination of the working population (who are getting immiserized by the regional bourgeoisie) and the Dalit people (who are increasingly being targetted and exploited by semifeudal/feudal elements of intermediate castes) could form the basis of the mobilization of the ideologically conscious political outfits in Tamil Nadu.
The latest elections saw the DMK form a minority government, an eventuality that has had no precedence in Tamil Nadu for a long time. This in itself represents a certain change in a new direction, albeit it can be red herring. Despite forming a minority government, the cohabition of the DMK as an alliance partner of great clout at the Centre has helped it retain the fervour that normally accompanies the ruling party in Tamil Nadu (which predominantly wins more than a majority of the seats in every scheduled election).