The phone call that changed Tamil Nadu's politics (News Analysis)
Weeks after it happened, people are here still talking of the phone call between two women chief ministers that changed the contours of Tamil Nadu's politics. It was a phone call from Tamil Nadu's J. Jayalalitha to West Bengal's Mamta Banerjee, discussing the possibility of a "Federal Front" after the Lok Sabha elections. And it created a storm in the southern state's political circles whose reverberations are still being felt.
During the conversation, Jayalalitha acknowledged Banerjee's warmth - that the Trinamool Congress chief has no reservations on her heading the union government after the elections if the numbers work out, that is. And Banerjee was celebrating the "blow" Jayalalitha administrated to the Left by calling off a proposed alliance in the so-called Third Front.
Jayalalitha wants to secure the maximum number of seats of the 40 at stake, including one from Puducherry, as for her, every MP counts. She aspires for the AIADMK to become a key player in the next union government - if none of the UPA and NDA get enough seats on their own to acquire a majority.
While the two women political leaders rejoiced, the political strategies of Muthuvel Karunanidhi's DMK and actor Vijayakant's DMDK swiftly changed. Karunanidhi deputed his lieutenants to New Delhi to meet the CPI-M's Prakash Karat to clinch a deal. Vijayakant sent his brother-in-law to New Delhi to meet BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari.
Another interesting aspect of Tamil Nadu politics is that except for Jayalalitha, the other major players - Karunanidhi, Vijayakant, Ramadoss and Vaiko - are focused on the 2016 assembly elections and the possible alliances then.
None of the senior Tamil Nadu leaders, except for Jayalalitha, want to maximise their presence in the Lok Sabha. What is their hidden agenda? To prevent the Congress getting a foothold. Both Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi want the state Congress decimated.
The shrewed political manipulation was thanks to Karunanidhi's son M.K. Stalin. It was he who rejected the idea of an alliance with the Congress, saying the DMK should instead focus on the 2016 assembly polls.
The other major development of Tamil Nadu politics is a formidable combination conceived by the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi - an alliance with the DMDK and also to rope in Vaiko's MDMK and Ramadoss' PMK. If such a combination goes viral with Modi addressing three or four rallies, the BJP will not only will gain in organisational strength but could also claim the second slot in the state's politics.
There are some political pundits who bet that a Vijayakant-led front will see Jayalalitha getting the minimum seats and pushing the DMK to the third slot. Vijayakant's DMDK has such a mass voter following in many parts of Tamil Nadu that the BJP wants to capitalise on this in formulating a strategy for the 2016 assembly polls.
The DMK is a cadre-based political party but ridden with family quarrels. The DMK has also fielded many of Karunanidhi relatives. Thus, after the Karunanidhi era (he is 89), many senior DMK leaders may prefer to go with the AIADMK or the DMDK - and few with the MDMK.
(R. Rajagopalan can be contacted at email@example.com)
(Posted on 12-03-2014)