June 02, 2020
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Can the DMK-Congress ties come undone? Yes, claims AIADMK as amma's mammoth meeting in Madurai last week, they say, has “stunned and surprised” Rahul Gandhi

Chennai Corner

Prickly Alliances
Prickly is the word that can be used to describe alliances in the DMK’s corner as assembly polls are nearing. But leaders in the DMK and Congress pretend all is well and reiterate that the DMK-Congress ties are strong. This week, Tamil Nadu CM Karunanidhi used the unlikely forum of the inauguration of an engineering college to say that “there is a bid to create enmity between my and the Nehru-Gandhi family. Our ties are strong.” It seems he doth protest too much.

But there was a protest of a different kind again because of ties that may not bind. While the Congress and DMK hurtle from one crisis to another as Congress leaders ventilate their grievances loudly about their resentment over the Dravidian party behaving like a big brother, one more huge fight has broken out in this camp. This time, between the Congress and Thol Thirumavalavan of the Viduthalai Chiruthai Katchi, both allies of the DMK. It may have to do with Thirumavalavan opportunistically projecting himself as a Tamil (read LTTE) lover considering elections are coming up. Nothing can do that better than baiting the Congress which even makes the other protector of Tamils, Karunanidhi, vulnerable because of the DMK’s alliance with the grand old party. That’s why you had the breakfast to lunch fraud fast enacted on the eve of the 2009 Lok Sabha election so that the Chief Minister could pull the wool over the electorate’s eyes at a time when Tamils were being massacred in Sri Lanka in the months leading up to the vanquishing of LTTE leader Prabhakaran which, incidentally, coincided with the Lok Sabha election.

The presence of Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapakse at the valedictory function of the Commonwealth Games was what made Thirumalavan see red. His statement criticising the government for inviting him, had Karti, the son of home minister P Chidambaram, rounding on him demanding that the DMK drop him as an ally. Not one to take things lying down, Thirumavalavan , while giving an interview to a magazine, called the Congress a “blot" on the DMK alliance and asked the DMK "not to hesitate to snap ties with the Congress”. After the Karti fusillade, the VCK leader defended his remarks and in fact, added fuel to the fire saying the Congress was on shaky ground since its defeat in the 1967 elections. In fact, this is something that can even be read from Congress’ leaders remarks harping as they do about the return of Kamaraj rule in the state. But it was unpalatable for Congress leaders when the VCK leader said it. Thirumavalavan killed two birds with one stone — cosied up to Tamil militant groups as well as targeted the Congress by saying: “After the rout in 1967 elections, the Congress has been ignoring the rights of Tamils. The national party has been betraying the interests of Tamil Nadu.”

From Lamb to Lion
Even TNCC president KV Thangkabalu, who is wishy washy usually was acerbic: “For one (Thirumavalavan) who got his post (as MP) through the DMK-Congress combine, his remarks tend to spoil the alliance, create confusion and are uncivilised. He should refrain from such speeches and activities.” Of course one should bear in mind that Thangkabalu had to show his sycophancy after a bust of Rajiv Gandhi in Ashok Nagar was “decorated” with a garland of chappals. There is little doubt  that the VCK was behind this insult that led to the Congress all over the city vociferously protesting. Thangkabalu took exception to Thirumavalavan describing the Congress as a party that rode piggyback on regional parties in Tamil Nadu. According to him, the Congress had been the axle in the wheel of governance in the state for four decades. Considering that A Raja continues to be the minister for technology after the Spectrum scam in a government headed by someone as upright as Manmohan Singh, is there any doubt that the Congress is a yes man and is far from being “an axle in the wheel”?

Catch 'em Young
Speaking of the DMK-Congress alliance which hits a rocky patch frequently, reminds one of the ongoing padayatra by Youth Congress cadre in the state. The padayatra, a brainchild of Youth Congress icon Rahul Gandhi who also happens to be an AICC general secretary, began at Kaliyakavilai near Nagercoil on Gandhi Jayanti and is likely to culminate in Chennai on November 19, the birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi. The padayatra is aimed at questioning the DMK appropriating credit for various welfare schemes underwritten by the centre.

The extremely useful '108' free ambulance service, the one-rupee-per-kg rice scheme, infrastructure development in the road sector and funding for self-help groups (SHGs) are some of the schemes of the DMK that win hearts, minds and probably votes. But young Congressmen feel their party should get the credit. This was exactly the issue that agitated Congress leader EVKS Elangovan a couple of months ago and he let off steam about how the DMK was appropriating credit while his party was spending the money. Annoyed by his repeated criticism, Karunanidhi used the forum of party mouthpiece, Murasoli, to “clarify” the DMK’s stand. But the fact that someone like the normally irrepressible Elangovan backed off indicated that Karunanidhi had a quiet word with Sonia Gandhi. Yet another example of local Congressmen chafing at the bit and being gagged by their high command.

But maybe the DMK-Congress ties can come undone. For one AIADMK chief Jayalalitha continues to make overtures and significantly her mammoth meeting in Madurai last week has “stunned and surprised” Rahul Gandhi if one believes AIADMK MP, Dr V Maitreyan.

It’s All in the Arithematic
The arithmetic of alliances, which will ultimately hold the key as to who will win and who will lose has even made DMDK’s Vijaykanth, who once famously said his alliance was with people or God, amenable to a change of heart. He seems to have taken the first baby steps towards being on the same page with the AIADMK after his extension of support to the Left parties agitation where AIADMK and MDMK leaders were also present. The DMDK extended support to the agitation organised by left parties in connection with the strike at the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (13,000 workers have been on strike since September 20) and Foxconn (also since September). Since Vijayakanth does not want to reveal all his cards just yet, the explanation being trotted out by DMDK presidium chairman Panruti S. Ramachandran is that the party had extended support to a one-day fast called by CPI on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue even on October 2, 2008. “We have not taken any decisions on an alliance as assembly elections are six months away,” Panruti said. In other words, an exit clause is being prepared so Vijaykanth can bolt which he did at the eleventh hour, according to Jayalalitha, after agreeing to tie up with the AIADMK before the Lok Sabha polls in the summer of 2009. But CPM state secretary G Ramakrishnan may have ratted Vijaykanth out. He said an invitation was extended to  Vijayakanth to join the agitation, but he was told by Panruti Ramachandran that his chief could not make it to the stir “as the invitation reached him very late” but that he had given his support.  In politics, one has to really perform a balancing act.

Et tu Brute?
Some weeks ago PMK S Ramadoss ate humble pie and met with Karunanidhi, the first time in nearly two years. Nothing like a forthcoming election to make doctor ayya insecure. Now comes news that should make him even more edgy. His brother, S Srinivasa Gounder, and his son, SS Chandrasekaran, have decided to join the Congress along with their supporters. They apparently plan to join in the presence of Union home minister P Chidambaram, AICC member Karti Chidambaram and TNCC president KV Thangkabalu on November 7. 

Chandrasekaran said that he and his father were forced to take the decision after being "sidelined and ignored" by the PMK leadership. Of course, one should be wary because there is many a slip between the cup and the lip, particularly in politics. But Chandrasekharan confirms this: "It is not a rumour. We have decided to join the Congress.”

Chandrasekaran said he and his father had been very loyal to the PMK since its inception. "We have been striving hard to develop the party from the grassroots level without seeking any power or position. However, after getting political clout, the party leader and his subordinates started acting differently.” Now he wants to test his wings. He is certain the Vanniyar community will help him fly.

One must say that politics has pitted father again son, brother against brother, even wife against husband. So what’s happening in Ramadoss’ extended family is not unusual. But for the record, this is not the first instance where Ramadoss’ kin are with the Congress. M Krishnasamy, father-in-law of Ramadoss' son Anbumani, is a sitting Congress MP from Arni. Krishnasamy was earlier the TNCC president. Anbumani's brother-in-law,(that is Krishnaswamy’s son) MK Vishnuprasad, is a Congress MLA.

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