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The 2014 DMK strategy of going it alone, jettisoning the Congress, its ally from 2004, proved disastrous for the Dravidian party as it drew a blank while its rival, the AIADMK walked away with 37 of the 39 Lok sabha seats in Tamil Nadu. On December 11, DMK president M K Stalin went in for a correction course, taking the extra step of projecting Congress President Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate to blunt the Modi weapon of the BJP.  Stalin made the announcement, though the dais was shared by AP and Kerala chief ministers, Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP and Pinarayi Vijayan of the CPM.

Stalin made the announcement and even appealed to all the opposition parties in the country to follow suit and back Rahul Gandhi’s candidature. Stalin aware that the AIADMK, for all its posturing, is without its main vote-catcher, Ms J Jayalallthaa, and is likely to tie up with the BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Parties of actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth may also queer the pitch, and could cause fragmentation of votes. The BJP would also do its best to bring in Rajinikanth into a BJP-AIADMK front. In such a scenario, the DMK does not want to take chances and would like to forge a strong opposition front in Tamil Nadu

The equations for the 2019 LS polls in the State may undergo a change from the 2014 situation. Jayalalithaa was projected by the AIADMK as PM material and thus secured a massive mandate of over 44 per cent, while the BJP-led NDA in the State, in the company of DMDK, PMK and PMK, made a strong pitch for Modi as PM, netting over 18 per cent of the popular vote. The AIADMK, in a late charge, responded to the NDA cry of Modi for PM with the slogan of Lady for PM (Jaya).

Sandwiched between these two fronts and campaigns for PM candidates, the isolated DMK tried a late surge with Stalin’s counter that the people of Tamil Nadu wanted Daddy (Karunanidhi) and not Modi or the Lady, but it did not cut much with the electorate. Divided as they were, the DMK went seatless, as did the Congress. This time, the DMK is determined not to repeat that mistake. As a kind of over-correction, Stalin might have even gone overboard in a premature call to project Rahul for PM, but in Tamil Nadu this could be the right slogan, positioning the DMK-Congress axis as a frontrunner in the State.

Opinion polls in Tamil Nadu have for more than a year consistently projected the DMK-Congress front as likely to bag more than two-thirds of the LS seats from the State. Thus, the DMK has now gone in for the kill, taking the early bird advantage in the race for the 2019 polls.

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