The Congress president had launched a blistering attack on AIADMK in 2006

It was the presence of Sonia Gandhi, Congress president, which added attraction to the valedictory of the ninth State conference of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tiruchi in March, 2006, and paved the way for the longest-ever alliance between a national and a Dravidian party.

She spoke for over 45 minutes, expressing support for the DMK in unseating the then Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK regime, further strengthening the United Progressive Alliance.

Ms. Gandhi’s presence and her blistering attack on the AIADMK regime brought much solace to the DMK high command as well as grassroots workers, who were sulking at the last minute “ditching” by the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) founder Vaiko on the eve of the conference.

Organisers of the conference had put up giant cut-outs of Mr. Vaiko and leaders of other allies in all vantage points.

However, on March 4, when the DMK conference was under way, Mr. Vaiko drove to Ms. Jayalalithaa’s residence to sign an agreement with her to contest the elections as allies, sending shock waves in the DMK circles.

More than the MDMK’s pullout from the DMK-led alliance, it was the timing of the conference selected by Vaiko to firm up the alliance with the AIADMK, which led to heartburn in the DMK rank and file.

The DMK cadre expressed their ire by pulling down cut-outs of Mr. Vaiko.

Mr. Karunanidhi appreciated the presence of Ms. Sonia at the Tiruchi meet and went on to build closer rapport with her all these years. It was this rapport which made Ms. Sonia to extend support to the DMK government, which did not enjoy majority in the Legislative Assembly to continue for five years (2006-11).

The rank and file of the DMK were of the view that MDMK’s switchover in the eleventh hour was “treachery” and they could not stomach it.

The support extended by Congress and the Left parties, along with traditional ally Indian Union Muslim League on this occasion, enabled the DMK to overcome the setback caused by MDMK’s exit and regain power in the May 2006 elections.

The DMK-Congress alliance, which was forged shortly before the 2004 Lok Sabha elections after the DMK pulled out of the BJP-led NDA alliance and the Union Government, remained on firm ground for nine long years spread over two UPA regimes, before the gap widened between the parties on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue in 2013.