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TN: Sonia wants to build bridges with Jaya

By Renu Mittal in New Delhi
Last updated on: February 20, 2009 22:52 IST
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Politics is the art of possible and there exists no permanent enemies and friends. If the political developments in down south are any indication, then anything is possible in alliances and break-ups, especially when the Lok Sabha polls are in the corner. 

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, it is learnt, is interested in reviving a working relationship with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Jayalalithaa, with whom her relations have been far from cordial in the past.

Top sources in the party disclose Jayalalithaa's statement publicly holding out a hand of friendship towards the Congress was the result of overtures made by a very senior minister of the United Progressive Alliance towards Jayalalithaa after the proposal was cleared by the Congress president herself.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram is learnt to have sent a trusted interlocutor to Jayalalaithaa with the proposal for an alliance between the two parties and the former Tamil Nadu chief minister is said to have responded positively and publicly to signal that she has no reservations.

The current turn of events where the Congress is looking to get out of its formal alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and is instead eyeing a new alliance with the powerful lady at Poes Garden certainly shows that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics.

It is the same Chidambaram, who along with the late G K Moopanar, had left the Congress party protesting against P V Narasimha Rao's decision to strike an alliance with the AIADMK and Jayalalitha.

Today all that appears to be water under the bridge as Chidambaram has convinced Sonia Gandhi that going with the DMK will be suicidal for the party. Particularly, since chief minister  Karunanidhi's health has taken a turn for a worse and it will be rather difficult for him to campaign in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

A second significant indicator of the Congress president's keenness to build bridges with Jayalalithaa was the appointment of Ghulam Nabi Azad as the general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu. Azad, a veteran when it comes to organizational politics and election management is known to have good relations with the AIADMK and its leader Jayalalithaa.

It is significant to point out here that he was the chairman of the Congress Parliamentary Board during the prime ministership of Rajiv Gandhi and it was he who as the emissary of Rajiv Gandhi negotiated the two-thirds one-third seat sharing formula with the late M G Ramachandran between the Congress and the AIADMK for the state and the Centre.

With the Congress looking for a new relationship with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the Janata Dal (S) in Karnataka, Azad has been made in charge of both these states from where the party does not wish to lose out as it works overtime to stitch together new alliances.

It is also significant that when asked to comment on Jayalalithaa's overtures of friendship, the Congress spokesman said that the party is "today" in an alliance with the DMK, but failed to add that the alliance would continue come what may.

While the Congress has been working behind the scenes to woo Jayalalithaa, the shrewd former chief minister decided to come out publicly with the twin purposes of forcing the Congress hand and at the same time creating confusion in an already demoralized DMK.

She is also keen to signal to voters that if the Congress ties up with her, it would mean the end of the DMK government in Tamil Nadu which she would like to portray as shaky and unstable before the Lok Sabha polls.

Interestingly, in a meeting convened by the Left Parties today for various regional parties, the AIADMK went missing as its representative suddenly "developed urgent business in Chennai".

But senior leaders say that if the pre-poll alliance with Jayalalithaa does not come through, then in the post-poll scenario it will be Jayalalithaa who will call the shots and if the numbers of the third front side appear more attractive, she would be under no obligation to come with the Congress to help them put together the numbers.

Apart from that in the pre-poll scenario, the worry of leaders like Chidambaram is that if the alliance is not right, he would have a problem winning his own seat and that goes for many of the other Congress MPs also.

Of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, the Congress contested and won 10 seats. This time it wants to contest on 18 seats which could be another bone of contention in the difficult days ahead.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi