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Poll game opens up as PMK deserts Cong.
Posted on: 27-03-2009 , 04:: | DY365 Bureau

Another Tamil player, actor-turned politician Vijayakanth, who was being wooed by Congress, stuck to his decision to go it alone in the Lok Sabha elections, marking a double whammy for Congress. These two developments, coming soon after UPA's bust-up in Bihar and UP, have opened up this election with political pundits claiming that UPA has now lost much of its edge.

In the last elections, Congress in partnership with the DMK and PMK had swept all 39 seat of Tamil Nadu ^ one of the chief reasons behind its surprise victory over the NDA. Thursday's realignment may tip the scales in favour of AIAMDK in the state which has a history of having elected a combination that ultimately formed the government at the Centre in every election since 1991.

Though anticipated, the final collapse of its alliance in Tamil Nadu forced the Congress managers to go back to the drawing board. In Delhi, the party seemed to acknowledge the significance of the southern churn by reaching out to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar of JD(U) with high praise for his secular credentials.

In Tamil Nadu, the stage is now set for a three-cornered contest, involving the DMK-Congress, the AIADMK-Left-PMK-MDMK combine and a third player in Vijayakanth's Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK). And providing a fourth, but weak challenge, will be the BJP, which does not have a major partner.

In a novel move, the PMK elicited the party's opinion by organizing a ballot to decide whether to go with AIADMK or DMK. Its general council members voted overwhelmingly to be part of the Jayalalithaa front, in a sign that the party rank and file harboured deep-rooted bitterness against the ruling DMK, despite the thawing of ties in the last few months between PMK founder S Ramadoss and DMK chief M Karunanidhi.

Ramadoss termed the general council's 2,453-117 vote in favour of AIADMK as an "outburst of anger against the DMK's high-handedness". "They expelled us from their front without even consulting allies," he said in his address to the council. "The DMK took no effort to invite us back."

The PMK had been part of the winning alliance since 1998 when it walked into the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the company of AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa. It has been in the Union government continuously from 1998 to this day.

It won four seats and joined the NDA ministry. It continued in the NDA for the 1999 LS polls, but this time in the DMK's company. And in 2004, it was part of the strong array cobbled up by DMK and Congress which included the Left and the MDMK.

The PMK's desertion and the DMDK's refusal to join it have dealt a double blow to the Congress, which was hoping to repeat its 2004 sweep of all seats. The PMK's action is expected to bolster the prospects of the third or "alternative" front at the national level. The state CPM welcomed its decision.

The AIADMK front will now be banking on anti-Centre and anti-DMK sentiment on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, besides the support base of the PMK and Left parties spread across several constituencies. However, as far as the PMK is concerned, it will be hard put to assail the UPA regime, of which it has been a part all along.

The DMK and Congress will have to sweat it out against a formidable array of opposition. The combination may find it a tall order to defend its enviable 39-nil victory record in the 2004 LS polls. Minority backing and the DMK regime's track record in implementing welfare schemes will be the front's strengths. However, the possibility of Vijayakanth eating into the anti-DMK votes will be a source of solace.

The BJP has been relegated to irrelevance, and is eyeing a tie-up with the All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi, a minor party floated by macho actor Sarath Kumar.


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