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HOMELAND BLUES

In the overwhelming voting experience in Tamil Nadu, one story has been forgotten. Late last year, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam had fielded 11 candidates in the Delhi assembly elections. The DMDK chief, Vijayakanth, was busy campaigning in Delhi while his party in Tamil Nadu waited for him to decide whether to tie up with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or the Bharatiya Janata Party for the parliamentary elections. Eventually, the DMDK did tie up with the BJP. One cannot be sure if it was the failure in Delhi that opened Mr Vijayakanth’s eyes, but he did settle for the far easier formula to realize his Delhi dream — one which has long since been perfected by his two staunch rivals in the state, M. Karunanidhi and J. Jayalalithaa. Both of them know that it is the numbers they garner in the state and then add to the Central pool that determine Tamil Nadu’s reach in Delhi’s corridors of power. Hence Ms Jayalalithaa’s determined effort to win all of the 39 parliamentary seats that Tamil Nadu has to offer, and perhaps then pitchfork herself to the prime ministerial chair.

These veterans also know that even if the numbers do not add up, there are ways to keep the Centre in thrall. The Sri Lankan Tamil issue is one such, and thanks to Ms Jayalalithaa’s ingenuity, the issue of Tamil fishermen is another. Although the Sri Lankan Tamil issue has played a spoiler in the past, the dominant Dravida Kazhagam parties have reinvented that past in such a way that there remains not a shadow of doubt about their commitment to the cause. In spite of having once lost the chief ministership for his espousal of the Eelam, Mr Karunanidhi has revived the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organization and is now as insistent on India following a hardline stance on Sri Lanka as Ms Jayalalithaa is. Even then, he might not be able to match the latter’s activism. From twice motivating India to vote against Sri Lanka in the United Nations to professing amnesty to the convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Ms Jayalalithaa has done it all. Thanks to her, India’s bilateral relations with Sri Lanka remain in limbo. Given the focus on her espousal of the fishermen’s cause, with even Narendra Modi picking up the cudgels on their behalf, there is no doubt that Tamil Nadu will be heard in Delhi, irrespective of whether a party from the state forms a part of the new government.