The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-Congress alliance kicked off the final phase of their campaign for the upcoming assembly elections in Tamil Nadu on Thursday with an alliance party meet in Chennai.
Sharing a stage for the first time in five years, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and DMK president spoke to a rapt, but a relatively small crowd of approximately 1,500 people at Island Grounds in the north of the state capital.
“The number of people here shows the faith and confidence you repose in our alliance,” Gandhi said.
“You have gone through immense suffering,” the Congress president added, referring to the devastating floods that engulfed Chennai last year.
“But did the AIADMK help you? The people of Tamil Nadu came together. I salute their courage,” she concluded, her voice drowned out by cheers from the crowd.
Karunanidhi, for his part, spoke in his usual poetic Tamil. The 90-year-old leader’s voice was hoarse as he slammed the ruling AIADMK party and current chief minister J Jayalalithaa on a humid May evening, with his speech being held by an aide.
The DMK chief began by announcing the final Congress and DMK candidates for Chennai, including MG Mohar in Anna Nagar and veteran leader Anbarasan in Alandur.
He criticised the government over the Tamil Thai, or “Mother Tamil” project, a Rs 100 crore statue in Madurai that has yet to even begin.
“That money has been paid to the government. Where is it now?” the veteran Dravidian leader asked.
Karunanidhi promised that, if elected, the alliance would create jobs and increase the number of the state’s educated workforce with measures like granting 27% reservation at the Trichy National School of Technology.
“From 2005 we have seen 7,567 murders, 2,792 rapes and 6,429 caste-related atrocities,” he said. “Is this the mark of a good government?”
Karunanidhi ended his speech by saying that the combined DMK-Congress front was the only way Tamil Nadu would regain its economic growth and prestige.
Conspicuous by their absence were senior Congress leader P Chidambaram and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Chidambaram was reported to be planning rallies in the western districts.
The fact that his party’s state president EKVS Elangovan, who was hosting Sonia Gandhi, has in recent years become a bitter critic of the former finance minister may have also been a factor.
Tamil Nadu is set to go to the polls on May 16.