Just months ahead of the Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, there is tension in the Congress-DMK alliance in the Union territory. The first signal that the alliance may be heading for a collapse came on Monday with the DMK’s Puducherry leadership announcing that the party will contest in all the 30 seats in the elections.
The discord comes days ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Tamil Nadu, his second this month. If the DMK and the Congress part ways, the tension could cast a shadow in Tamil Nadu as well. The Congress high command in Delhi said it was watching the situation closely and is in touch with both Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and the Puducherry leadership.
The announcement by senior DMK leader S Jagathrakshagan came after a meeting of DMK functionaries in Puducherry. After chairing the party meeting, Jagathrakshagan addressed a gathering near Puducherry where he categorically stated that DMK will contest and win all 30 seats in the UT. “If we fail (to win polls), I will commit suicide on this stage,” he said to a round of applause.
Congress sources in Delhi said the developments in Puducherry were worrying. “If they (DMK) are talking, obviously there is something to it,” a senior leader said. Another leader said if the DMK and Congress part ways in Puducherry, it will have “some effect in Tamil Nadu…it gives fodder for other parties to talk.”
When contacted, AICC in charge Dinesh Gundu Rao told The Indian Express, “We are looking at it closely. The party high command will discuss it with our Chief Minister and PCC president there. We are looking at it…we will see how it plays out.”
Without Congress, uphill task for DMK
While some in the DMK may be thinking of relying on the resources of S Jagathrakshagan, a businessman with several interests in India and abroad, to go it alone in the Puducherry polls, the party’s prospects without the Congress remain a question as it hardly has any presence in the UT. Of nine seats contested by the DMK in the last elections, the party won only two, adding another in a bypoll held later.
Gandhi will be in Tamil Nadu later this week on a three-day visit, during which he will address public meetings, hold road shows and interact with representatives of weavers, medium, small and micro enterprises and leaders of labour unions from the textile hub of Tiruppur, in Coimbatore, Erode and Dindigul .
Suggesting that the party may soon announce Jagathrakshagan as the CM candidate, a senior DMK leader in Chennai said he has been aggressively pushing for his candidature in Puducherry despite the camaraderie between DMK chief M K Stalin and Puducherry CM Narayanasamy.
“Even Narayanasamy had a hope that he could talk and resolve any problem through Stalin. But Jagathrakshagan was adamant. We have only three seats in Puducherry now. The leadership is told that more than five or six winnable candidates will join DMK from other parties before polls to capture power. We will wait and see,” the senior DMK leader said. The leader said the DMK leadership in Chennai is of the view that the Narayanasamy government is unlikely to return and that it may be better to listen to Jagathrakshagan’s plan to contest alone.
While Jagathrakshagan’s emergence as the top power in the DMK’s Puducherry unit is seen as an assertion of a leader who also has business interests in the UT, there were minor differences in the Congress-DMK alliance for the past three months.
While Narayansamy was not available for comment, sources close to him in Puducherry as well as the DMK leadership in Chennai said the developments will not affect the alliance in Tamil Nadu. “Take it like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Not necessarily these issues are to reflect outside Puducherry. Puducherry is a tiny UT,” said a senior DMK leader requesting anonymity.
Of 30 seats in Puducherry, DMK has three while the leader of the alliance, Congress, has 14 seats. On the opposition side, the All India NR Congress has seven seats while the AIADMK has four.