Chennai: Today, on the 70th birthday of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, leaders from many political parties have been invited to be a part of the celebrations at a bash to be held in the evening.
But this is no ordinary party. This is being seen as the DMK’s attempt to project Stalin as a national leader who can bring Opposition parties together against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
“The idea is to bring all parties together and for Stalin to be a cementing force. If this happens, the DMK hopes Stalin will become a national leader and a possible kingmaker after the election,” Maalan V. Narayanan, political observer and bilingual (Tamil-English) writer, said to ThePrint.
In a statement on 22 February, DMK party general secretary and state minister of water resources Durai Murugan had said, “The birthday will be an important event not just for Tamil Nadu, but for the entire country. It is going to be the birthday of a new dawn for India.”
At the mega public event at the YMCA ground in Chennai, the stage will be shared by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Bihar deputy CM and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, former Jammu and Kashmir CM and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief and former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav. “We invited people from like-minded parties,” said DMK treasurer and Lok Sabha leader T.R. Baalu to ThePrint.
“When politicians come together, there will be discussions,” said Baalu, acknowledging that this will be the precursor to the Lok Sabha polls 13 months away.
“The SP is keeping a distance from Congress. They did not take part in Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and they also refused to ally with the Congress in the 2022 UP assembly elections,” said Narayanan. He said the Congress will also stand to benefit from Stalin’s plan to field himself as a cementing force, especially as the SP has steered clear of the Congress since their poor show despite an alliance for the 2017 UP assembly elections.
It is not just the SP, but “parties like Trinamool Congress (TMC), Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are against the Congress,” said political analyst Priyan to ThePrint. “Stalin, who is strong on his anti-BJP stand, will try to bring all these people into a combined alliance,” added Priyan.
Speaking to ThePrint, former Rajya Sabha MP T.K.S. Elangovan of the DMK said, “The SP is not with Congress. This meeting will be the start of a unity. This will be a beginning.”
Priyan also noted how Stalin has had a great relationship with Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee and K. Chandrashekar Rao, leaders of AAP, the TMC, and the BRS, respectively.
Kejriwal was invited for the DMK initiative to launch three educational projects after Stalin went to Delhi to visit government schools. Banerjee, who has also shared a dais with Stalin on multiple occasions, said after meeting the DMK chief in November last year, “Stalin is like my brother.” KCR had also visited Stalin in 2021.
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‘United against NDA’
During the Congress’ 85th plenary session last week, in its resolution the party had called for “an urgent need for a united Opposition” against the NDA. The resolution said, “emergence of any third force will provide advantage to the BJP/NDA”.
“Many parties are not ready (to have a truck with the Congress) and see it as a sinking ship. But Stalin is favorably inclined towards the Congress,” said Maalan. “If there are three fronts in 2024, then that will adversely affect the Congress,” he added.
Without the Congress, it will be “difficult for us to have an all-India anti-BJP front,” DMK spokesperson Saravanan Annadurai told ThePrint. He added that between the SP and the Congress, whose leaders are to share the dais on Wednesday, “we will be the glue that will make the alliance stick.”
Congress MP Karti P. Chidambaram said to ThePrint that such occasions where leaders from different political parties meet would strengthen their interpersonal relationships. He added that any alliance against the BJP must have the Congress. “An alliance without the Congress will be a one-state party alliance. The Congress is the only national party against the BJP which can be the fulcrum of an alliance.”
“Some occasions are used as a precursor for that coming together. I welcome it,” he said.
The contribution of Tamil Nadu has been huge in national politics, in forming the central government. “Be it Kamarajar, Moopanar (both from Congress), Karunanidhi (DMK), or Jayalalithaa (AIADMK), all have played a key role in forming the central government and Stalin is only trying to take the legacy forward,” said Priyan.
On 28 February, Makkal Needhi Maiam chief and actor Kamal Haasan inaugurated a photo exhibition by DMK named “Engal Muthalvar, Engal Perumai” (Our Chief Minister, Our Pride).
Addressing the media, the actor-politician said his party and the DMK are ideologically aligned. But on the possibility of an alliance, he said, “Can’t say about the alliance now, we have to move scene by scene and not go to climax now. Scene by scene we should carry the story.”
The DMK has organised state-wide celebrations for their ‘Dravida Nayagan’ (Dravidian hero) and some of the activities include gift of gold rings to newborns, eye camps, blood donation camps, saplings to farmers, and other welfare programmes.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the party cadre, Stalin has asked that there be no grand celebrations, but that they help the poor and needy instead.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
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