DMK push for Rahul as PM a shrewd move

Rahul Gandhi’s name did not figure in invitations sent out for the unveiling of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s bronze statue in Chennai, but the Congress chief went the extra mile by flying down along with his mother Sonia to further gain the trust of an important ally, the DMK.

And Rahul reaped rich dividends by appearing on stage: He was proposed for the Prime Ministership by M K Stalin, the chief of the DMK, the same party that propelled the Congress-led UPA to power 15 years back.

Rahul is by no means the only gainer from this. Stalin’s move is a shrewd one that at once heralds the D MK’s return to national politics and projects the confidence that it can take Narendra Modi head-on in its home state.

The regional party has played a crucial role in the formation of coalition governments for nearly three decades: the National Front (1989), United Front (1996), NDA (1999) and UPA (2004).

In evolving full circle — from keeping the Congress out of the alliance in the 2014 general elections and earning the wrath of his father Karunanidhi, to endorsing Rahul Gandhi for the top post – Stalin has realised the importance of a national party in general elections, and the leverage that being its alliance partner gives a regional party.

And by proposing Rahul’s name, the DMK has played its cards very well – the announcement cements its alliance with Congress and increases its bargaining power during seat-sharing and later in the event of the Opposition coalition defeating the BJP at the hustings. Also, it indicates Stalin’s wish to play a crucial role in the formation of the next government at the Centre like his father Karunanidhi. Political analyst Sumanth C Raman told DH that the DMK had grabbed the initiative by proposing Rahul Gandhi’s name. “By this announcement, the DMK has cemented its alliance with the Congress and gives very little space for the latter to wriggle out even if there are issues during seat-sharing,” he said.

The BJP’s numerous plans to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa’s death in 2016 have failed and the party finds itself in an unenviable position in the state, and this is where the DMK thinks projecting Rahul Gandhi as the PM face of the party-led alliance in Tamil Nadu would work. An alliance with Congress during general elections have usually worked wonders for the Dravidian parties and the DMK hopes to cash in on the long-held sentiment as well.

Stalin proposing Rahul Gandhi’s name for the country’s top job is vintage Karunanidhi-style politics – the DMK feels by proposing the young Gandhi-Nehru scion it can milk the anti-BJP and anti-Modi sentiment prevailing in Tamil Nadu as a result of the saffron party’s support to the unpopular AIADMK government and its policies like NEET and imposition of Hindi.

Karunanidhi had invited Indira Gandhi in 1980 to provide a “stable government” after her party’s rout in 1977 following the Emergency fiasco and proposed Sonia Gandhi for Prime Ministership in 2004 even as the elections were on.

With the legendary Karunanidhi not by his side, Stalin as President of the DMK has been politically cautious and has distanced his party from the BJP, which has virtually no base in Tamil Nadu. Immediately after taking over, he announced an alliance with Congress and has been consistent in his attacks against the BJP and PM Narendra Modi.

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DMK push for Rahul as PM a shrewd move

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