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As the new year starts with debate on the poll strategy of opposition parties against the BJP in next year’s Parliament elections, especially on the role of the Congress party, Tamil Nadu is one state where the alliance question looks settled.
The speeches of Chief Minister MK Stalin hailing Rahul Gandhi and the young Congress leader’s support to some of the DMK’s core principles makes it clear that the Congress will be part of the DMK front in the 2024 Parliament election.
The results of the last round of Assembly elections and bypolls have lifted Stalin’s optimism who has openly stated in an interview that the BJP’s victory in Gujarat cannot be replicated throughout the nation. He cited the saffron party’s debacle in Delhi’s corporation elections as the reason for his optimism.
Stalin has also supported the inclusion of Congress in the ‘national alliance’ against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, saying the Congress is on the path of resurgence and has not lost its relevance or importance at the national level.
Though there are many claimants from powerful regional parties for the Prime Minister’s post, they focus on the interests of their own state on all issues and have therefore not raised their voices on issues specific to Tamil Nadu. The DMK was part of the UPA alliance from 2004 to 2014 when it received good support from the Congress-led Union government for its welfare schemes and to launch new schemes in the state.
Stalin has supported the inclusion of Congress in the ‘national alliance’ against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, saying the Congress is on the path of resurgence and has not lost its relevance or importance at the national level
However, the DMK was criticised for its failure to stop the massacre of over 80,000 Tamils in Sri Lanka during the island’s military offensive in 2009. But, the criticism has been blunted since the BJP does not appear to be different from the Congress on the issue.
The unanimous Assembly resolutions by J Jayalalithaa’s government in 2011 calling for international enquiry into the war crimes of the Sri Lankan military and a referendum among the island Tamils on a separate Tamil homeland was ignored by both the Congress and BJP governments.
On the Cauvery dispute, a sensitive livelihood issue in Tamil Nadu, the BJP filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court supporting Karnataka’s stand against the formation of Cauvery Management Board with full operational powers. This led to protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Tamil Nadu in April 2018.
The BJP government also opposed the release of the convicts in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case in the Supreme Court, a stand also taken by the previous Congress regime. Both the parties follow the same economic policies too.
While there is no difference between the Congress and BJP on some of the issues, namely Sri Lankan Tamils and Cauvery, Rahul Gandhi through his speeches in Parliament and outside has shown that his party is with Tamil Nadu on other issues including opposition to Hindi imposition and NEET. Stalin himself has referred to some of the issues to say that the DMK has ideological similarities with the Congress.
The DMK leaders were gladdened by Rahul’s remarks when he said, “BJP leaders do not want English to be taught in schools. But, the children of all BJP leaders go to English medium schools. Actually, they do not want children of poor farmers and labourers to learn English and dream big”
Rahul, in his speech at Alwar in Rajasthan during the Bharat Jodo yatra, backed English education in schools. In a direct attack on the BJP’s stand on replacing English with Hindi, he said “If you want to speak to people of the rest of the world, Hindi will not work, English will”.
Rahul’s support of English education against Hindi imposition is an open endorsement of the DMK’s two language formula with English as the link language. So far, the BJP and its supporters have been accusing the DMK leaders of sending their children to learn Hindi while opposing the teaching of Hindi in government schools. The DMK leaders were gladdened by Rahul’s remarks when he said, “BJP leaders do not want English to be taught in schools. But, the children of all BJP leaders go to English medium schools. Actually, they do not want children of poor farmers and labourers to learn English and dream big”.
Rahul Gandhi, while speaking in the Lok Sabha in April last year, challenged Modi and said the BJP could never rule Tamil Nadu. Citing the example of Tamil Nadu, he said the Centre could not suppress languages, cultures and histories of states. DMK leader Stalin immediately hailed Rahul for making a “rousing speech in Parliament” and voicing the long-standing arguments of Tamils.
The DMK government had promised to scrap NEET in Tamil Nadu and is facing criticism for not implementing this poll promise. Though the NEET exemption Bill was passed unanimously in the Assembly, the union government is not for it. While the BJP is blaming the Congress government for introducing NEET, Rahul Gandhi openly supported exemption of NEET for Tamil Nadu and this is one of the reasons that brings the DMK and Congress together.
Stalin had proposed Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate before the 2019 Parliament elections when the BJP front was routed in Tamil Nadu. Though there is a possibility of a change in the number of constituencies allocated to the Congress in the next Parliament elections, especially if new parties enter the alliance, doubts over the continuance of the alliance have been dispelled.
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