Counting on foes who are friends

The smooth sailing of the DMK will depend on the attitude of the BJP’s allies

Updated - June 12, 2024 03:22 am IST

Published - June 12, 2024 01:47 am IST

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin after the INDIA bloc leaders meeting at Mr. Kharge’s residence in New Delhi on June 5, 2024.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin after the INDIA bloc leaders meeting at Mr. Kharge’s residence in New Delhi on June 5, 2024. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) swept the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, bagging all 40 seats. While this verdict and the fact that the power and influence of its arch rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is now limited at the national level, gives it reason to celebrate, the DMK is still unhappy about the nationwide outcome.

In fact, the party was never worried about the results in Tamil Nadu. “Let us forget Tamil Nadu. We are more concerned about the national-level verdict,” was the common refrain in the DMK. Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, who is also the party president, has been consistently opposing the BJP and its ideology. He knew what would be in store for his government if the BJP was given one more chance to form the government at the Centre.

The DMK was aware that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu, was a divided house. This increased its prospects substantially. Its allies — Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Indian Union Muslim League, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam — also garnered votes and contributed to the sweep of the INDIA bloc. During the election campaign, Mr. Stalin said, “Naalai Namathey Narpathum Namethy (Tomorrow is ours and 40 is also ours)”.

The outcome also defied predictions that the AIADMK and the BJP could win a few seats in the State. The DMK may not even have minded if the AIADMK and BJP had won a few seats. Its only concern was that the BJP would get re-elected at the national level with a brute majority, as predicted by the exit polls. Fortunately for the party, its worst fears did not come true.

The INDIA bloc increased its tally across the country, but could not secure enough numbers to put an end to the decade-long rule of Mr. Modi. Their only solace is that the BJP fell short of a majority and is now part of a coalition government. The BJP’s dependence on its allies may tie its hands, thus preventing it from causing trouble to the DMK government.

Today, Tamil Nadu is the only southern State where the BJP does not have a toehold. This has been the case since Mr. Modi was projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate more than 10 years ago. The DMK won landslide victories in the 2019 and 2024 Lok Sabha elections. In 2014, the AIADMK had secured a massive victory, winning 37 seats in Tamil Nadu, leaving just two seats for the National Democratic Alliance. Even Kerala has elected a member to the Lok Sabha this time.

According to the DMK, the Dravidian ideology has ensured that Tamil Nadu is a fortress against communal forces and has made it impossible for the BJP to permeate the State. The DMK has increased its vote share from the 2021 Assembly polls. But it is aware that lack of unity in the Opposition contributed to its win.

The BJP has come to power in the Centre with the support of the Telugu Desam Party headed by Chandrababu Naidu and the Janata Dal (United) helmed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Both these leaders are seen as friends of the DMK. Mr. Stalin called on Mr. Naidu in New Delhi and congratulated him on his victory in Andhra Pradesh. There is a perception that the presence of these two parties in the Union government lowers the risk of the DMK government being targeted.

The DMK had already paid a heavy price to what it calls “vendetta politics” of the BJP. Central agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate have been targeting one DMK leader after another in Tamil Nadu in the last few years. The regional party believes that the BJP, which is now at the mercy of its alliance partners, may not go after its political rivals with the same gusto.

The changed circumstances have given the DMK government the much-needed relief and space it needed to concentrate on administration and implementation of welfare schemes.

The smooth sailing of the DMK will depend not on the attitude of the BJP, but on the attitude of the BJP’s allies. The DMK hopes that they will prevent the BJP from pursuing its own agenda. Even if they remain indifferent, the DMK believes that the increased strength of the INDIA bloc will help it face the BJP.

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