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Why Tamil Nadu chose DMK, rejected Congress

By Krishnakumar P in Chennai
May 16, 2009 12:38 IST
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Going by the trends, the people of Tamil Nadu seem to know who they did not want to win: The Congress and the Pattali Makkal Katchi.

What was already a tough battle was complicated further when Tamil organisations and the film industry raised the Sri Lankan Tamils issue during the final leg of the campaign.

"Senior Congress ministers are losing. Just like Sonia Gandhi annihilated our people in Sri Lanka, the Tamil people have annihilated her party in the state. From now on the Congress will cease to exist in Tamil Nadu. We will never again allow them to come and ask for our votes," film director Seeman, who spearheaded a vigorous pro-Eelam campaign in constituencies where the Congress was contesting, said.

Thus while the Congress bore the brunt of the pro-Eelam anger, the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham quietly sidestepped the issue. The filmmakers did not campaign in places where DMK candidates were in the fray.

On why they stayed away from DMK constituencies, he said: "(DMK leader and Chief Minister M) Karunanidhi is a leader who we have followed and respected from our childhoods. Though we were sad over his behaviour we did not want to speak against him out of respect. But that does not mean that he is no guilty. We still are disappointed with him," he said.

Political analyst and editor of Thuglak weekly, Cho Ramaswamy, however, maintained that it was the unpopularity of the Congress leaders than the Sri Lankan issue that caused their downfall. "I still maintain that the Sri Lankan issue was not a plank in this election. Had that been the case, the DMK must have also lost big time. They were all along running with the hares and hunting with the wolves."

"Certain Congress leaders were hugely unpopular in their constituencies. A person like Chidambaram is losing despite spending huge sums of money. His unpopularity could not be masked by money power," he said.

For the PMK, a party that has been accused of switching alliances far too many times and always staying in power, this election proved to be one time too many.

"We advised (PMK leader) Dr S Ramadoss not to switch alliances. But the decision was his. You see the results now," an advisor to the PMK chief said.

"The moment the PMK left the alliance, it was evident that Karunanidhi would stop at nothing to defeat the PMK," he said.

The DMK fielded the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, an ally that stuck to the DMK in two of the PMK bastions in north Tamil Nadu. "The people have also rejected what they saw as an opportunistic party," he added.

Another reason is the lack of chemistry and the wrong alliance partner. "It is clear that the alliance with the AIADMK has not worked. In 2006, there was resentment against the incumbent and the PMK capitalised on it. This time, everything worked against the party," he said.

Here, too, Cho Ramaswamy disagreed. Even at the national level, parties keep switching alliance partners. "It would be unfair to criticise the PMK alone for that," he said.

On the party always having been with the winning side, he said: "They had been lucky all along. This time it was not so."

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Krishnakumar P in Chennai