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BJP sources say alliance With DMK possible; DMK leaders say it’s too late.
Was Narendra Modi’s ‘gesture’ of calling on ailing DMK president M Karunanidhi an apolitical move or was it a hint of a thaw between the two parties and a precursor to an understanding for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls? DMK allies view it as BJP’s attempt to divide the DMK-led front and drive a wedge among them.
PM Modi visits Karunanidhi in Chennai, invites him to his residence in Delhi
While DMK working president M K Stalin has been quick to repudiate any talk of an alliance between the two parties, tongues continue to wag over the confusion that was created in the opposition camp, just two days before the DMK and its allies were about to launch Black Day protests in Tamil Nadu.
The BJP, which seemed all set to strike an alliance with the AIADMK for the Lok Sabha elections, seems to have changed track in the wake of recent opinion polls that point to poor credibility levels of the party. It has instead redrawn its strategy, going for the winning horse. Subtle hints have been dropped by BJP leaders that there was nothing wrong in the two parties having an alliance as they had it from 1999 to 2004.
The DMK which contested the 1996 and 1998 elections on an anti-BJP platform drifted towards the saffron party in 1999 once AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa decided to pull out of the NDA and bring down the Vajpayee government. The DMK initially said it was merely extending its cooperation to the BJP-led government at the Centre. Later, on April 25, 1999, Karunanidhi in an interview to this writer said the DMK would consider an alliance with the BJP. Karunanidhi made a pitch that an alliance with the BJP would actually help the minorities. The same year, the DMK stitched a new alliance with the BJP, PMK and MDMK among others.
Karunanidhi’s argument of 1999 is being cited by the BJP as relevant even today. Referring to the DMK’s anti-Congress roots in the Justice Party, its opposition to the Emergency and its association with the Janata Party and the Jan Sangh in the struggle for democracy then, BJP circles say, there is nothing wrong in renewing its alliance with the DMK.
Modi plans to make a Nitish Kumar out of Karunanidhi by weaning DMK away from the Congress. Karunanidhi’s family faces several cases. Especially, the verdict due in the 2G case relating to former Union minister A Raja and Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi could be out in the next two months. In 1979-1980, the DMK was said to have extracted an assurance from the Congress government that it would withdraw the CBI cases against DMK leaders after the 1980 polls. Though this was denied, the cases were withdrawn later. Stalin has scoffed at rumours of a similar “compromise”. But that the BJP is the source of such rumours is the interesting part.
But, can such an alliance be ruled out? Going by the past, politics has seen strange bed-fellows. Expressing DMK’s displeasure with the Congress for dismissing its government in 1976 (Emergency), Karunanidhi in an interview with Cho Ramaswamy in 1979 ruled out any possibility of a DMK-Congress alliance. Yet, a few months later the DMK struck an alliance with the Congress which swept the 1979-1980 Lok Sabha polls.
Tamil Nadu has always seen ‘humanitarian’ gestures of leaders’ visits to hospitals or ailing political opponents turn into alliances. Jayalalitha called on an ailing G K Moopanar at his residence and later an alliance emerged with the TMC. Karunanidhi’s birthday in June 2017 turned out to be an occasion for parties at the national level to get together for the Presidential polls.
But DMK leaders feel it is too late for the party to take a U-turn now. They feel that a lot of work has been put in by Stalin to bring together various parties into an opposition front including Congress, CPI, CPM, MMK, IUML, TMC and VCK. Political observers say the DMK lost a significant section of its minority votes after it aligned with the BJP in 1999 Lok Sabha polls and 2001 assembly elections. Many DMK leaders believe the party should not commit the 1999-2001 mistake again.
But, power is a powerful magnet. The BJP will continue to dangle the carrot (of ministerial berths) and the stick (of cases against the Karunanidhi family) before the DMK. Its plan A would be an alliance with the AIADMK if the government improves its image; plan B will be an alliance with the DMK to win a majority for the NDA in the state; and plan C will be to make the DMK break electoral ties with the Congress and force the Congress to draw a blank in TN.
The DMK has so far resisted the “advances” by the BJP. Things may take an interesting turn after the 2G case verdict is out, towards the end of the year.
(The writer is a senior journalist)