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MUDDY WATERS

Be it tea or the Cauvery waters, the ambitions of J. Jayalalithaa always seem to have depended on some liquid propellant for furtherance. The leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Ms Jayalalithaa, has announced that her party will contest the Lok Sabha polls of 2014 on its own. The stated intention is to garner all of the 40 parliamentary seats available to the state and to neighbouring Puducherry so that the AIADMK can force upon the Centre decisions that are favourable to Tamil Nadu but unpalatable to most other parties. The Centreís unwillingness to make the Bharatiya Janata Party-governed Karnataka comply with the Supreme Courtís order on the release of Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu has been offered as one reason for the partyís decision. But there is every possibility that the puratchi thalaivi may be thinking of seizing more than just the Cauvery waters. Indications of this have been evident for a while. On several occasions recently ó whether the death anniversary of M.G. Ramachandran or the party council meet ó partymen have reminded themselves of the unique opportunity that lies before their leader to make it to the prime ministerís chair. The lack of consensus among the National Democratic Alliance partners on a prime ministerial candidate and the apparent unacceptability of Narendra Modi as the predominant choice are believed to be the reason behind such fervent hopes. Even if she were to be overlooked as a consensus choice, with more than 35 seats in her kitty, Ms Jayalalithaa could be expected to retain her weight with the Centre.

Both Ms Jayalalithaa and her partymen recognize a political opportunity when it presents itself. Unfortunately, the Lok Sabha elections may not be the cakewalk the AIADMK thinks it might be given that it wields power in the state. The party is betting its chances of getting a majority on the belief that the anti-AIADMK vote will split between its former ally, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, and its perennial foe, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. But the DMDK might turn out to be the eventual spoiler for both parties. In fact, with the smaller parties such as the Pattali Makkal Katchi wanting to go it alone too, the verdict may be more fractured than at any other time. Each party will then try its luck for a berth at the Centre, if only for the benefit of Tamil Nadu.