The Grand Old Man’s Wild Cards

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Azhagiri’s efforts, the party’s welfare schemes and disunity among pro-LTTE parties ensured the DMK’s victory in Tamil Nadu, says PC Vinoj Kumar

All in the family Karunanidhi flanked by his family in Chennai after the poll victory
All in the family Karunanidhi flanked by his family in Chennai after the poll victory
Photo: Balaji

In recent years, the bigger alliance had always won in Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK front seemed formidable this time since it included CPI, CPM, MDMK and PMK. In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the DMK with the same line-up plus the Congress, had swept all 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. This time, the DMK had only the Congress and two other smaller parties — the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal (VC) and Indian Union Muslim League.

Not just alliance arithmetic, even political conditions seemed loaded against the DMK-Congress combine. The civil war in Sri Lanka was casting its shadow on the polls. The opposition parties accused the DMK and the Congress of failing to protect the Lankan Tamils.

If there was any anger in the Tamil Eelam issue it was against the Congress, not DMK

As parties holding power in the state and Centre, the DMK-Congress combine was on the defensive. Seizing the opportunity, the AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa took up the Lankan Tamil cause with gusto. She even declared that if a government of her choice came to power at the Centre, the Indian army would be sent to liberate ‘Eelam’ — the Tamil nation the LTTE was fighting for.

A feeling gained ground that the AIADMK front would win majority seats. Even before the results were out, the BJP was in touch with the AIADMK, hoping to have the party back in the NDA, if it fell short of the numbers. After casting her vote on May 13, Jayalalithaa admitted she was receiving feelers from many parties. “I will take a decision after the election results are announced,” she said. But it was Karunanidhi who had the last laugh.

How did Karunanidhi get a favourable verdict in spite of the arithmetic not favouring him? Analysts point fingers at actor Vijaykanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK). Vijaykanth’s decision to contest alone after meetings between DMDK and Congress leaders in Delhi has now set off speculations that he had struck a deal with the Congress-DMK combine. In March, DMDK leaders Panruti Ramachandran and LK Sudheesh had met Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmad Patel in Delhi, even as reports of an impending Congress-DMDK alliance were doing the rounds. However, a few days later, Vijaykanth ruled out an alliance with any party.

Vijaykanth has played the role of a spoiler for the AIADMK front in at least 11 seats

Parties smell a deal. “Congress initially wooed Vijaykanth. But we suspect that later Vijaykanth was asked to contest alone so that he could divide the anti-DMK and anti-Congress votes,” says G Nanmaran, spokesperson of the MDMK. This suspicion got strengthened on the eve of the polls when DMK candidate Dayanidhi Maran’s Sun Network TV channels aired DMDK advertisements on a regular basis. Notably, the Sun channels did not air advertisements from AIADMK or its allies.

If there is truth in these charges, Vijaykanth has played the role of a spoiler for the AIADMK front in at least 11 seats. DMDK candidates polled more votes than the victory margin in these seats. Overall, DMDK polled 31 lakh votes, securing nearly 10 percent of total votes. It is an improvement from its performance during the Assembly polls in 2006, when it secured 8 percent votes. However, DMDK leader Ramachandran denied that his party had struck any deal with the DMK front. He said his party had in mind its long-term interests. “We are positioning ourselves as an alternative to the DMK and the AIADMK in the state,” he told TEHELKA.

In another move, Karunanidhi broke up the unity of the pro-LTTE parties, by providing two seats for VC in his alliance. The VC, led by firebrand dalit leader Thol Thirumavalavan, along with the MDMK and PMK were part of the Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement. Karunanidhi also managed to retain the loyalty of Dravida Kazhagam leader K Veeramani, another pro-LTTE leader. Thirumavalavan and others accused Jayalalithaa of shedding crocodile tears for the Lankan Tamils. DMK leaders recalled her past actions against the LTTE and described her sudden sympathy for the Eelam Tamils as farcical. “People could see through the hollowness of her purported concerns for Lankan Tamils,” says DMK MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi.

She insists the DMK’s welfare initiatives like the Re 1 rice scheme, free colour TVs, and the various monetary assistance programmes for women and self-help groups, carried the day for the alliance.

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PARTY POSITION

TAMIL NADU 
DMK FRONT

DMK 18
CONGRESS 8
VC 1

AIADMK FRONT
AIADMK 9
CPI 1
CPM 1
MDMK 1

PUDUCHERRY
CONGRESS 1

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A STATE SPECIAL Branch police officer, who predicted that the DMK front would win about 30 seats at a time when the media was expecting a majority for the AIADMK, added, “People like you in the cities can’t imagine the impact of the Re 1 scheme in rural areas and among the poor people. They are the ones who voted en masse for the DMK front.”

If there was any anger on the Eelam issue, it was against the Congress. Political commentator MSS Pandian says people understood that the DMK tried its best on the Lankan issue, and it could have done nothing more. He also reiterates that though Eelam was an important issue, it was not the only issue in the polls. “The polls were not a referendum on Eelam. There were local factors in each constituency,” he says.

Congress heavyweights EVKS Elangovan, Mani Shankar Aiyer, R Prabhu and state Congress president KV Thagkabalu bit the dust. Aiyer lost his Mayiladuthurai seat, where pro-LTTE outfits had pasted posters of him with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had attended his daughter’s wedding. Home minister P Chidambaram scraped through by a margin of 3,354 votes. LTTE supporter and MDMK chief Vaiko lost from Virudhnagar by a margin of 15,764 votes. He was a victim of the ‘V’ factor. DMDK candidate Pandiarajan who polled 1.25 lakh votes was Vaiko’s spoiler. PMK, another pro-LTTE party, lost all seven seats it contested from.

In Madurai, the meteoric rise of MK Azhagiri, Karunanidhi’s elder son, continues. Azhagiri, the DMK’s south zone organising secretary, ensured the front’s victory in nine of the ten seats in south Tamil Nadu. He won the Madurai seat, defeating his CPMrival P Mohan by a margin of about 1.40 lakh votes. Azhagiri is a hot favourite for a cabinet post now.

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