Amid Chief Minister M K Stalin’s apparent bonhomie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the inauguration of the Chess Olympiad, questions were raised whether his DMK was edging closer to the BJP, abandoning its national partner, the Congress.
Stalin has, in recent days, put that speculation to rest by renewing his commitment to a national opposition against the saffron party, albeit not by always keeping the grand old party happy. Even as the “freebie” discourse swirled, primarily against the AAP that faces the BJP in Gujarat next, the DMK government invited Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to launch a series of schools modelled after the AAP’s Delhi project and its flagship initiative offering female government school students Rs 1000 each month to pursue a college education.
While the leaders spoke of no politics, only governance, the DMK signalled its position against the BJP. Soon after, he met with Rahul Gandhi and launched the Bharat Jodo Yatra, stating on Twitter that the Congress scion was beginning a journey to “retrieve India’s soul”. The DMK mouthpiece, the Murasoli, recalled that Stalin had pitched Rahul as the PM candidate in 2019 just as his father, M Karunanidhi, had backed Indira Gandhi.
Stalin has always reaffirmed his support for Rahul and the Congress, standing as one of the few significant regional leaders who sees the party as a key figure in the national opposition to the BJP in the 2024 elections. On the one hand, it may be a principled position against what it views as the BJP’s communalist, Hindu majoritarian politics, the antithesis to the Dravidian ideology. But it cannot be denied that it is also a matter of political strategy. The BJP has made no secret of its desire to grow in TN.
The AIADMK remains in turmoil. The BJP has sought to replace it, at least in discourse. As always, it is set for the long game. In this context, the opposition to the BJP—at the national level—allows the DMK to set itself up as a bulwark against a brand of politics unpopular in the state. Stalin also seeks to emulate his legendary father as a connector on the national stage, given his warm ties with most regional leaders.