By Ashima Makhija
On 21st December, the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court acquitted all those who were accused in the infamous 2G scam. It is a historic judgment since it clears the names of several DMK stalwarts like A. Raja and MK Kanimozhi and paves the way for the party to recapture the political ground it has lost since 2011.
The revelation of the Rs. 1.76 lakh crore scam had blotted DMK’s image and had been AIADMK’s (All India Anna DMK) chief electoral plank in the assembly elections of 2011. For nearly a decade, the 2G scam has tainted the brand and prospects of the DMK. But now, after the demise of J Jayalalithaa and the emergence of intense factional rivalry within AIADMK, there is a significant opportunity for Stalin to rise above the shadows of DMK’s past and steer his party to a dominant position in TN politics.
Amma’s weapon of choice: Corruption charges
The 2G scam led to a political upheaval and a decade of embarrassment for the DMK. When the scam came to light in 2011, Tamil Nadu was just five months away from its assembly elections. Seizing this glorious opportunity, AIADMK’s supremo, Jayalalithaa launched a scathing campaign against the ‘corrupt and dishonest looters’ of the DMK. Former Union telecom minister A. Raja’s arrest coupled with CBI raids on properties of DMK president M. Karunanidhi’s family members including his daughter Kanimozhi and Raja’s aide Sadiq Batcha cast a formidable and long-lasting shadow on prospects of DMK.
In the elections of 2011, the DMK suffered a comprehensive and humiliating defeat while AIADMK and its allies went on to register a massive victory, securing 199 of the state’s 234 assembly seats. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the DMK did not secure a single seat. The repercussions of the large-scale corruption charges, which always occupied a prominent place in Amma’s electoral speeches, were felt even in the 2016 elections.
Can the acquittal reshape TN politics?
If the discovery of the case had the potential to transform Tamil Nadu’s political landscape, its closure might have the same capacity. With the vast leadership void in the state and the party infighting between EPS-OPS and Sasikala-Dhinakaran, the verdict holds tremendous value for the DMK. The party, which was once endorsed as “Delhi Money for Karunanidhi”, is now expected to play the victim card. M. K. Stalin, current party president, is expected to use the judgment to generate empathy and support among the voters. With a pristine slate, DMK will certainly emerge as a formidable contender in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Stalin now has the power to lead the people of the state to the vision of utopian governance and his own party to victory.
Transpiring electoral ambitions
While the DMK has been part of both the NDA and UPA camps in the past, currently, its loyalties lie intact with the Congress regime. However, PM Modi’s visit to DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi led to speculations about a plausible saffron coalition in the future. BJP, for a long time, has shown interest in expanding its political footprint in Tamil Nadu. However, it cannot achieve its objectives without the support of either of the Dravidian parties. The internal squabbles in the AIADMK are obviously not a desirable trait for the BJP and therefore, it seems to have diverted its attention to the DMK.
However, the DMK doesn’t seem to be reciprocating BJP’s advances. Stalin not only dismissed such rumours but also went on to call for a state-wide agitation against demonetisation. The Indian Express reported that a leader of the DMK said that, “Our cadre’s basic ideology is built on an anti-BJP platform.” He contended that the verdict was excellent news for the party but collaboration with the BJP was out of the question.
The verdict might also squash the aspirations of several newcomers like Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan. These contenders entered the political arena with loud complains of ineffective administration and corruption. But a restrengthened DMK can easily overpower their voices.
The verdict is not restricted to the DMK and Tamil Nadu. Political analysts now expect a more aggressive and vigorous Congress at the Centre. The 2G scam became the primary reason for the downfall of the UPA regime in 2014. The BJP campaign led by Modi had projected Congress as a corrupt party and Manmohan Singh as a weak Prime Minister. After this judgment, the general elections of 2019 may acquire altogether new dimensions. The Congress can now defend against BJP’s allegations of corruption and can adopt a much bolder strategy. A cleaner image of the Congress has the potential to inundate the saffronisation project of the BJP.
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