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The Chennai chessboard

Rajya Sabha polls touch off a new political dynamic in Tamil Nadu

Rajya Sabha polls touch off a new political dynamic in Tamil Nadu

The Rajya Sabha election in Tamil Nadu is usually a tame affair. One or the other of the Dravidian parties that control the assembly gets its way. They also let a friendly party get a seat. This time round,there was heightened drama as the DMK did not have the required numbers and they were desperate to send party chief Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi back to the upper house. When the DMK announced its candidate,it was assumed that Captain Vijayakanth’s DMDK would support the DMK. However,the captain decided to field his own rather obscure candidate,A.R. Elangovan. His party seems to be unravelling fast,with seven MLAs crossing over to the AIADMK.

Of the six Rajya Sabha seats that fell vacant,the AIADMK gets four,and has backed the CPI to enable its national secretary D. Raja to win. For the last seat,the contest was between Kanimozhi and Elangovan. Both the DMK and the DMDK needed the support of the Congress to get the necessary numbers. The DMK managed to get two small parties,MMK and PT,to vote for Kanimozhi. S. Ramadoss’s PMK (which has been facing a lot of flak for instigating caste violence) was expected to support Kanimozhi with its three MLAs. The PMK has decided not to align with either of the Dravidian parties. The executive committee of the party was unanimous in deciding that there was no reason to reconsider that position for the Rajya Sabha elections. This came as a blow to the DMK. The Congress,with its crucial five MLAs,was playing hard to get.

The Congress took its time and finally announced its support for the DMK. There have been some noises made in the state Congress to dump the DMK totally and make peace offerings to the AIADMK. This is not likely to happen anytime in the near future. At this point,it is practical for the Congress to support the DMK,which will help it complete its term at the Centre. With so many pending bills,the Congress needs the DMK,although the party has walked out of the UPA. The DMK is likely to show its gratitude by not opposing the government in Parliament. In any case,a lone DMDK member in the Rajya Sabha is irrelevant for the Congress.

With parliamentary elections looming large in a few months,every move by every party is being watched with keen interest. The Congress is a party that is fast fading in the state. It cannot win a single parliamentary seat without the support of one of the Dravidian parties. For nearly five decades now,only the Dravidian parties have ruled the state. Attempts to revive the party have met with little success.

Jayalalithaa does not really need support from any of the parties in the Lok Sabha elections. She has said that her party will secure all the 40 seats on its own. She has the left parties backing her. Her opposing the Neyveli Lignite Corporation disinvestment and supporting the farmers’ agitation against GAIL laying pipelines in the western districts are seen as sops for the left. Both the CPI and the CPM have pockets of support in Tamil Nadu. With the Congress now going with the DMK,it is easy for people to believe that the DMK and the Congress have a secret understanding and that the DMK is willing to associate with the Congress so that the party chief’s daughter gets re-elected. It is family politics all over again. For many reasons,the Congress is a much reviled party in the state. In spite of the DMK being a part of the UPA,there is a feeling that it has not supported Tamil Nadu in the Sri Lanka issue. The state also feels let down by the fact that it had to go to the Supreme Court to get Cauvery waters.

In a state where the opposing parties truly hate each other,Jayalalithaa would like to finish off Vijayakanth’s DMDK first. It is a new party and does not have the traditional support that the much-weakened DMK still enjoys. Vijayakanth launched the DMDK in 2005 and it was projected as the one credible alternative to the DMK and the AIADMK. It won 29 seats in the 2011 assembly elections and became the main opposition party. The party has not lived up to its promise and has steadily gone downhill. The captain is supposed to be dominated by his wife and her brother,which has not gone down well with the leading lights of the party or its cadre. If it does not get its act together,it can become as irrelevant as Vaiko’s MDMK or Ramadoss’s PMK. Yet,there is talk that for the parliamentary elections,the Congress may consider tying up with the captain.

sushila.ravindranath@expressindia.com

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