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Vijayakanth tilts towards Cong

Chennai, Feb. 11: Vijayakanth was known for improbable screen stunts. Now he seems to be outdoing himself as a political gymnast.

After allowing himself to be courted by the BJP and quietly seen to be double-dealing with the DMK, he is set to hitch himself to the Congress.

Vijayakanth is slated to meet Manmohan Singh on Friday as part of a delegation of MLAs of his DMDK party. The ostensible reason is to submit a memorandum seeking justice for Lankan Tamils and Tamil fishermen and a solution to Tamil Nadu’s power crisis.

Once the Congress promises measures for both, Vijayakanth could announce the alliance and cite as a reason the party’s earnestness in addressing concerns of the state.

A DMDK leader suggested the Congress had seized on a lull in Vijayakanth’s talks with the BJP. “When the BJP was busy with Modi’s Chennai meeting (last) Saturday, Vijayakanth’s nephew Sutheesh was called to Delhi by top Congress leaders where they pushed the tie-up with the assurance that the DMK would follow suit soon.”

The Congress leaders — which reportedly included Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad — told Sutheesh that a DMK-Congress-DMDK alliance would be far more effective than a four-party tie-up between his DMDK, PMK, MDMK and the BJP. It was pointed out to Sutheesh that the DMK-Congress alliance had won most of the state’s 39 Lok Sabha seats in the last two polls.

“Once the DMDK is with us, the DMK would be compelled to reconsider its decision to stay away from the Congress, realising the three of us would form a formidable front that can challenge (chief minister Jayalalithaa’s) AIADMK,” said a state Congress leader.

The Congress has started wooing the M. Karunanidhi-led DMK back. Azad and Farooq Abdullah, both Union ministers, met Karunanidhi recently and urged him to revive his alliance with the Congress.

Dalit leader Thirumavalavan, whose VCK is an ally of the DMK, recently met Rahul Gandhi in Delhi.

During his Delhi talks, Sutheesh was learnt to have demanded at least 15 Lok Sabha seats. The Congress leaders are learnt to have said this could be negotiated once the DMK was on board.

The leaders also told Sutheesh that the Congress’s pledge to address key state issues would be worded in a way to also placate the DMK. Karunanidhi’s party had questioned the Congress’s sincerity in helping Lanka’s Tamils when it quit the UPA last March.

The BJP wasn’t surprised. “Vijayakanth’s demand for an unrealistic number of seats was an obstacle,” said a state leader.

But while Vijayakanth’s likely alliance with the Congress may look strong on paper, some fear it could dent his credibility. “His wife had criticised the Congress and the DMK over corruption recently. He will find it difficult to sell this alliance even to his cadres,” said P.S. Ramachandran, Vijayakanth’s former political adviser.