Since 1996, the DMK has been in government at the centre except the period from March 1998 to October 1999, when the rival AIADMK was a member of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The political promiscuity that DMK chief M Karunanidhi has gainfully practised by dumping and accepting allies, both at the state and centre, seems to have lost steam. The DMK patriarch is staring at a lonely political life — and the CBI closing in on his family, investigating the 2G-spectrum scam — while AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha is suddenly smiling.
The Congress-DMK alliance, which resumed in 2004 after the rupture in the seventies, has run out its utility, says a senior Congress leader from the state. The elected Youth Congress committee in the state has been pressing AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi on going solo in Tamil Nadu, a political line he has showed liking for in UP and Bihar in the recent past. The CBI probe into the spectrum scam added to the rift between the parties.The DMK has considered the Congress and BJP at the state level untouchables even while having alliances with them at the centre. When it was in the NDA (1999-2004), the DMK accused the BJP state unit of being hand in glove with the AIADMK. After it failed to get a simple majority in 2006, the DMK became dependent on the Congress to run a government in the state but refused to accommodate it in the ministry. The bitterness grew and an influential section in the Congress feels parting ways with the DMK is for the better. This section also believes that there is a latent political constituency that is tired of alternating between the two Dravidian parties. In the 2006 assembly election, the newly-founded Desiya Murpokku Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMDK), led by cine star Vijayakant, scored 8.38% and improved it to more than 10% in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. "This 10% plus the Congress’s own vote, also around 10%, can be formed into a new political constituency," a senior Congress leader from the state said.
Even if this is theoretically true, the current assembly election, which is just 36 days away, is too early for any new experiment — the reason why Jayalalithaa can smile. Her alliance in 2009 was formidable in terms of social arithmetic, but the UPA government’s overwhelming popularity, clubbed with the raining social welfare schemes of the state government, carried the day for the Congress-DMK alliance.
This time, with the DMDK on her side and the Congress-DMK split, her fortunes have revived. Whether the Congress and AIADMK could have an alliance too is an open question as of today. Jayalalithaa does not have 60 seats to spare for the Congress now, having allotted almost 50 seats to the MDMK and other smaller parties. The Congress too is slightly wary of switching partners abruptly. “The people rejected the AIADMK-led alliance in 2009 also because they were all warring months before the elections. Arbitrary shifts in alliance can be counter-productive,” said a Congress strategist. But the last word has not been said yet.