With not much to gain and a lot to lose in being seen in the company of the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has adopted the only course open to it now: it has ruled out an alliance with the Congress for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress is reeling under an anti-incumbency mood, as is evident from the outcome of Assembly elections in four States. In Tamil Nadu, the national party’s stock is not exactly high, with the Sri Lankan issue adding to its woes. DMK president M. Karunanidhi has also ruled out any tie-up with the Bharatiya Janata Party, arguing that the BJP can no more be the friend it was under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The DMK’s decision on steering clear of the Congress is consistent with the position it took in March 2013, when it walked out of the United Progressive Alliance. But its detractors will surely remember that it subsequently approached the Congress for support to get its candidate elected to the Rajya Sabha. Both sides must have harboured hopes of a revival of ties, as the Congress high command asked its five legislators to vote for DMK candidate Kanimozhi. It is clear that Mr. Karunanidhi was waiting to know the results of the Assembly elections before spelling out his stand. As the BJP of the Modi era may not be attractive to the DMK, which has been a part of major coalition regimes at the Centre since 1989, Mr. Karunanidhi will have to recalibrate his position as a player in the national scene at the time of the Lok Sabha elections.

However, much depends on how well-equipped he is to take on the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which has also said it will go it alone. Tamil Nadu may see both the main adversaries entering the electoral fray without one of the principal national parties in alliance, something rare in this multi-party domain. Both the Congress and the BJP may now seek to join hands with the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam led by actor-politician Vijayakanth, but he may not have forgotten that the Congress had initially hinted at backing the DMDK candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls before its MLAs voted in favour of the DMK nominee. The Pattali Makkal Katchi, which wanted to lead a front of minor caste-backed outfits based on a common agenda of diluting laws favouring the Scheduled Castes, may now alter its course and seek some company. The colourful political terrain that is Tamil Nadu may now see a multi-cornered contest for seats that may play a significant role in government-formation at the Centre next year. With the parties other than the Congress, the BJP and the Left uncommitted to any firm ideology beyond their regional interests, their seats may float towards any combine during government formation.

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