In an emotionally charged speech, party General-Secretary K. Anbazhagan outlined the electoral planks of the DMK in precise terms. That the DMK's focus was not just on capturing power but on creating an atmosphere to fight all forms of bigotry—majoritarianism, sectarianism and centralised body polity. It stressed on a thorough understanding of the concept of true federalism, and the need to respect the desires and aspirations of the minorities. Rising above petty politics, the meet addressed the issues concerning the protection of cultural identities in, what it called, the times of a 'Hindi film-centric nationalism'. Thirty-two resolutions were adopted, spelling out the party's stand on various issues, such as state autonomy, language, the Sri Lanka-Tamil imbroglio and corruption. They also made a severe indictment of the Supreme Court's definition of Hindutva and launched a scathing attack on the new economic policy.
The DMK-led front has its traditional allies—the Indian Union League, the CPI, All India Forward Block (Vallaarsu) and the Republican Party of India. In comparison, the other fronts seem to be in total disarray and are poles apart ideologically. The MDMK and the PMK are vocal in their support for the LTTE. The CPI(M) and the breakaway Congress faction led by Vazhapadi K. Ramamurthy are dead against the LTTE. And while the MDMK and PMK feel strongly about the language issue and state autonomy, the CPI(M) and Vazhapadi faction consider them parochial.
For its part, the AIADMK is facing not only the heat of the Enforcement Directorate but also strong dissent from within. The nomination to the Rajya Sabha of Adi Rajaram, south Madras district secretary and chairman of the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Development Corporation and also the prime accused in the K. Vijayan assault case, was snowballing into a major controversy.
Sometime ago, Vijayan, an advocate, had filed a public litigation case challenging the state's 69 per cent reservation policy as opposed to the Supreme Court directive of 50 per cent. Soon after, Vijayan was assaulted by the accused Rajaram. This had put the AIADMK in a soup. The government advocate P. Mohankumar had resigned in protest against the nomination. The lawyers' association was up in arms. Under a lot of pressure, Rajaram pulled out of the contest on February 2.
Further, the wedding extravaganza of Jayalalitha's foster son Sudhakaran revealed many chinks in the chief minister's armour. And the AIADMK's traditional vote-bank of MGR loyalists is a divided lot with one section walking away with the expelled AIADMK minister R.M. Veerappan.
The Congress-led front is a picture of total confusion. While the state leaders are anxious to form an alliance with the various MGR fronts, including that of the MGRADMK led by the former AIADMK minister S. Thirunavukarasu, and secure the support of the ever-elusive Rajnikant, the Congress President P.V. Narasimha Rao is refusing to spell out the party's stand vis-a-vis the AIADMK. Says a senior Congress leader: "We are trapped between two silent mascots—PVN and Rajni. If the present uncertainty continues for another month, we can be sure of losing our deposits in all the constituencies". Thirunavukarasu adds: "It is already too late. The Prime Minister must clear the uncertainty about the alliance with the AIADMK at the earliest".
What is stranger than the BJP-BSP'S short-lived honeymoon in the state are the activities of the fourth front led by the MDMK-CPI(M) combine. "Ours is a broad platform for those abandoned by the bigger fronts. The stupidity of the national leaders of the Janata Dal forced the state unit out of the DMK-led front. And Jayalalitha will not touch them. So they are with us. Vazha-padi's acerbic tongue got him and the PMK out of the DMK-led front. So they also will be with us,'' observes an MDMK leader.
What emerges finally is that the oldest party, the DMK,is also by far the most organ-ised party of the South. In spite of its poor performance in the 1991 elections, the recent conference clearly proves that the party has had its programme chalked out way ahead of its rivals.