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Not just anti-Jaya tirade, Sonia's Chennai rally had many subtexts

S Murari | Updated on: 15 May 2016, 14:21 IST

In a blistering attack on the AIADMK government, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said it did not help the people when they most needed it -- during the devastating floods in Chennai and surrounding areas last year. She also took the regime to task for amending the land acquisition law enacted by the UPA in order to allow takeover of farmers' land without their consent and without compensation.

Addressing a Congress-DMK election rally recently along with DMK chief M Karunanidhi in Chennai, Sonia accused the J Jayalalithaa regime of not protesting when the Narendra Modi government reduced spending on the upliftment of scheduled castes, women and other weaker sections of the society. Instead, she added, the AIADMK supported the NDA regime in Parliament.

Seeking to touch a chord with the residents of Chennai, who were worst hit by the floods, she recalled that it was not the state government but the people themselves who helped each other in their hour of need.

Read- Cheatsheet: Here's all you need to know about the Tamil Nadu election

Pointing out that the Modi government had promised insurance benefits for the residents who had lost family members and property in the floods within four weeks, Sonia said, "Four months have gone by and the relief is yet to reach the people".

Sonia also spoke about the acute shortage of water in Tamil Nadu: "People have no drinking water and the farmers have no water to till their land, yet neither the Modi government nor the AIADMK government has come to your help."

Referring to the frequent arrests of Tamil Nadu's fishermen by Sri Lankan authorities, she said, "Not only are our fishermen being abducted but their boats are being seized, yet neither the Modi government nor the AIADMK government have done anything about it."

Apparently referring to the acute power shortage during the early years of Jaya's rule, the Congress chief claimed that in the last five years, Tamil Nadu had slipped in economic development, factories were moving out and people losing jobs.

Calling Karunanidhi's promise to introduce prohibition if voted to power a "social reform measure", she said the public demand for a liquor ban was so strong that even the AIADMK had decided to review its position on the issue.

On equal terms?

At the rally, Karunanidhi introduced DMK and Congress candidates for Chennai and its suburbs. But the party's star candidate, his son MK Stalin who is seeking re-election from Kolathur, was not present as he was busy campaigning in western Tamil Nadu.

Karunanidhi said his party's alliance with the Congress was deep and based on mutual understanding. The alliance had been forged in 2004, he said, but did not explain why the two parties had gone their separate ways in January 2014 after sharing power in UPA -I and UPA-II.

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Neither Sonia nor Karunanidhi spoke about corruption in the AIADMK government. They didn't touch upon corruption at all, although Sonia did refer to DMK's promise to appoint a Lokayukta if voted to power.

Chidambaram didn't attend Sonia's Chennai rally. Because his graft-accused son was refused a ticket?

Just as well since Karunanidhi's daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, she of the 2G scam infamy, was seated next to Sonia while Karunanidhi was being briefed about Sonia's speech by his nephew Dayanidhi Maran, who is facing a CBI investigation for corruption in the Aircel-Maix deal.

Sharing the stage with them were Tamil Nadu Congress president EVKS Elangovan and other senior party leaders, including KV Thangabalu and Kumari Ananthan.

By persuading Sonia to share the stage with him, Karunanidhi has sent a message to local Congressmen that they should not expect to share power with the DMK if their alliance is voted to power. Not unlike in 2006, when the DMK won 94 seats against 117 required for majority and had to depend on the Congress to form government.

Photo: R Senthil Kumar/ PTI Photo

Back then, the Congress had 40 seats, but did not press for power sharing despite the fact that with just 15 MPs, Karunanidhi had got plum portfolios for the DMK in UPA-I. All this because Sonia did not want to antagonise the DMK and risk the stability of the government at the Centre.

This time, too, Karunanidhi has ruled out sharing power, regardless of the outcome of the election. He was apparently encouraged by the fact that the Congress is arguably at its weakest nationally to attempt a hard bargain. In Tamil Nadu, GK Vasan's exit has left the Congress with only one prominent faction - P Chidambaram's. Although the party grandee has got a couple of his candidates fielded in this election, he is sulking over the denial of a ticket to his corruption-tainted son Karthi. And he made his displeasure known by staying away from the rally.

Edited by Mehraj D. Lone

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First published: 15 May 2016, 14:21 IST
 
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