Exactly a year ago, when the DMK and the Congress were still good friends, DMK chief M Karunanidhi created a flutter at a function by supporting actor Kamal Hassan’s desire that a ‘dhoti-clad’ Tamil must occupy the prime minister’s seat, an apparent reference to finance minister P Chidambaram.
A file photo of leader of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Aiadmk) party and chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa. (AFP)
Chidambaram, true to his style, quickly dismissed Karunanidhi’s remarks by saying “I know my limitations. And I live and conduct myself according to my limitations.”
But the episode underscored a political sentiment — not too often expressed loudly — that Tamil Nadu’s future will be best served when a leader from the state occupies the top slot.
AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa has now chosen to play on the very sentiment as a panacea for ills plaguing the state — even if her political rivals are tempted to laugh it off.
In fact, she plans to campaign for the Lok Sabha polls on this plank at a time when the old rival DMK is in a bad shape since it was routed in the assembly polls in 2011. The DMK is also friendless after having broken ties with the Congress due to internal rivalry involving Karunanidhi’s two sons, MK Stalin and MK Alagiri.
Even at the peak of their careers, neither Karunanidhi nor his rival MG Ramachandran, who founded the AIADMK, nurtured any national ambition at the Centre, preferring to be an influential factor from within the confines of the state.
Like Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, Jayalalithaa sees her time has come, say AIADMK functionaries. Jayalalithaa told her party conclave on December 19: “It (the AIADMK political train) has already reached Fort St George six times — three times during the MGR regime and three more times under my leadership. Now it’s time for Delhi ... soon the AIADMK Express will become the Red Fort Express.”
Amid the chorus, “Jaya for PM”, she gave her reasons. “If Tamil Nadu has to survive, prosper and progress, we will have to win all 40 seats from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Only then we will be able to lead the country after the Lok Sabha elections.”
For that matter, Jayalalithaa’s PM aspiration has never been hidden when she briefly sought to be part of the Third Front, joining hands with the SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu.
Obviously, Jayalalithaa’s rising ambition is not good news for the BJP. Though she is on good terms with BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi, she has refused to talk of any pre-poll alliance. She has chosen to keep the Left parties as her allies, expecting them to play the role of kingmaker after the 2014 polls — in case the BJP or the Congress fails to get enough numbers on its own.
As AIADMK office-bearers put it, her calculation is that those who expect to win 30 Lok Sabha seats on their own in their states will play a big role in the formation of the next government. Given the state of affairs in the DMK, she expects Tamil Nadu to endorse her national plan by giving her a bounty.
The BJP is not amused. Senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said, “A party is free to pass a resolution to project its leader as the PM candidate, but the choice of its cadres should be the choice of the people ... Atal Bihari Vajpayee found it tough even with 184 seats.”