Old architecture, but new chemistry in TN, Puducherry

Though alliance politics has dominated the State elections since 1967 when Congress was unseated by the first opposition ‘grand alliance’' ranging from the rightist ‘Swatantra party’, DMK, Indian Union Muslim League to the CPI(M) that catapulted the DMK to power under the late C N Annadurai, much water has flown down the Cauvery to change the political ecology.

  With the Congress split under Indira Gandhi and the formation of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in 1972 by the charismatic actor and leader, M G Ramachandran, known as MGR after his expulsion from the parent party DMK, these two major Dravidian formations have been the nerve centres of alliance politics.

Thus even national parties have often in the past had to ally with one of these Dravidian parties. It hinged on pooling of votes but without power-sharing, as the leader of the winning front, except in 2006, had a clear majority of its own.

Even in the coming Assembly elections, the two main alliances are spun around the DMK and AIADMK. The architecture, as they say, is old, but the chemistry binding it seems radically different in March-April 2011.

In the run-up to the 2006 Assembly polls, things were a lot easier for the 87-year-old DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, who is once again in the race, contending for the State's Chief-Ministership for a record sixth time should his front win. The alliance pattern in Tamil Nadu is also reflected in neighbouring Union territory of Puducherry, with just 30 Assembly seats.

In Puducherry, one novelty this time is the breakaway Congress leader and former Chief Minister N Rangaswamy, who recently floated his own party, met Jayalalithaa in Chennai as a prelude to teaming up with the AIADMK in the polls there. If formalised, they will be pitted against the DMK-Congress-PMK-VCK combine in the former French colony which has an electorate of about 8 lakh.

After a stunning sweep of the DMK-led  alliance in the 2004 LS polls, when they bagged all the 40 Parliamentary seats at stake in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the DMK's political clout zoomed in the UPA at the Centre.   

Nothing seemed to stop the DMK in the 2006 State Assembly polls to continue the ‘rainbow alliance’ that had pitch-forked the Congress back to power at the Centre in 2004 on a ‘revive secularism plank’. The shocker for Karunanidhi in the previous Assembly poll was that the DMK contesting 132 seats, won only 96 seats even if it emerged the single largest party. But thanks to the UPA coalition in Delhi, the DMK could run a minority Government in Chennai for full five years with outside support of the Congress and the PMK led by Dr S Ramadoss.

Nonetheless, before the 2009 L S polls,  the first exposures in the 2G spectrum scam and the military offensive against the Tamils in Sri Lanka saw the ‘bond’ between the DMK and Congress loosen.

Come November 2010, the CAG revelations on the extent of the spectrum scam when DMK’s A Raja was the Union Telecom Minister and the staggering loss to the exchequer, besides the later events from Raja's arrest to CBI quizzing DMK MP Kanimozhi and Karunanidhi’s wife Dayalu Ammal, have handicapped the DMK-Cong ties.

For the first time in three decades, the Congress called the shots to a vulnerable DMK, getting the latter to relent and allot it 63 seats,  a tactful gain for the Congress, which is keen on power-sharing at the State level this time.

Jayalalitha, on the other hand, queering the pitch on the twin issues of corruption and inflation pulled off a mini coup, roping actor Vijayakant-founded DMDK to her side, allotting it 41 seats to strengthen the AIADMK-led alliance in which the CPI and CPI(M) continue. However, the AIADMK-led front faced a near break-up as its constituents revolted against the constituencies being allotted to them, after Jayalalitha “unilaterally” announced the 160 seats her party will contest. Late Friday, rapprochement efforts were on.

The PMK and VCK are now back in DMK-front and MDMK’s presence in the AIADMK-fold wobbly. Equally, both the fronts are busy wooing a host of smaller caste-based outfits, while the BJP is going it alone with the Janata Party in the State.

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