It appears that the DMK and Congress need the old guard to make peace. Rahul Gandhi and M.K. Stalin might have stamped their authority as party presidents, yet they need the guiding hands of their parents to keep their alliance intact.
Sonia Gandhi’s presence to unveil the statue of Karunanidhi at the DMK headquarters on November 15 is expected to put to rest the doubts that have been swirling around the state of the DMK-Congress friendship vis-à-vis the Lok Sabha elections. Since neither Stalin nor Rahul Gandhi have so far openly stressed the strength of their ties, the parties need to convey it through the November function.
When everyone thought that the alliance between the DMK and Congress was done and dusted, unlike the Congress-BSP one that came unhinged, both sides started to nurse misgivings about their partner. Rahul’s two meetings with Kamalahaasan and another with VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan indicated that the Congress was grouping like-minded partners to ensure for itself a sizable number of seats in Tamil Nadu for the Lok Sabha polls, thus exerting pressure on the DMK.
On its part, the DMK leaked information that the Congress will not get more than eight seats, considering its weakened presence in the state. “The Congress expectation of 15 seats is disproportionate to its ground support. It could win only 8 out of the 41 Assembly seats it contested in 2016…. In the 2014 LS elections, when it contested alone only in two places, it managed over a lakh votes, which proved how much its support base has shrunk,” pointed out a senior DMK MLA.
Congress leaders retorted that even the DMK (like the Congress) had failed to win a single seat in 2014 (The BJP and PMK managed to win one each even as the AIADMK under Jayalalitha had swept the polls with 37 MPs). “The DMK even finished third behind the BJP-led combine in some seats, which proves that in a Lok Sabha election it needs a national party to take it past the winning post,” pointed out a senior Congress leader.
When the DMK recently appointed senior leaders as ‘in-charges’ for all 40 LS seats in TN and Puducherry, it was read as a sign of war-readiness to the Congress—the DMK was prepared to contest all seats if seat sharing talks failed. It was as an answer to this that Rahul met Kamalahaasan, who had declared that his party was ready to align with the Congress if it snapped its ties with the DMK. “Both DMK and AIADMK have been corrupt. We will work hard to dethrone these parties,” said the actor-politician. However, state Congress chief S. Thirunavukarasar asserted that ties with the DMK were strong and stable. He also chided Kamalahaasan that for a new party that hasn’t proved its support base yet in polls, he cannot make preconditions.
However, this complex, elaborate interplay of signals reflect to a degree the differences within the state Congress. While Thirunavukarasar leans towards tying up with T.T.V. Dhinakaran’s AMMK, former president E.V.K.S. Elangovan bats vigorously for the DMK. Former Union Minister P. Chidambaram, who is expected to hold the final round of talks with the DMK, also feels that only a Congress-DMK front could win the maximum number of seats from Tamil Nadu.
“All doubts should disappear after Sonia Gandhi’s visit. While seat sharing will happen only in 2019, the intent to fight the Lok Sabha polls together would be declared before Karunanidhi’s statue,” said Congress spokesperson A. Gopanna. That the two partners need to keep renewing their vows in public only means that tensions might be defused, but not actually resolved. We will know for sure when the seat-sharing happens.
- Congress-DMK alliance in TN appears strained; chiefly over the issue of seat-sharing in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls
- The presence of Sonia Gandhi for the unveiling of Karunanidhi’s statue in November is expected to smooth matters
By G.C. Shekhar in chennai