For once, it was the voters who caught all the attention, and not the contestants. Much of the excitement generated by the election to the six Rajya Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu had little to do with the candidates in the fray. From the beginning, the point of interest was on the political churning the election would entail, on who would vote for whom. As it turned out, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Congress got back together, and ended, for the time being at least, the expectations of a third front in the State in the form of an alliance between the Congress and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, the rising regional party led by actor-politician Vijayakant. The reunion of the Congress and the DMK is a telling commentary on their divorce. Although the DMK parted ways citing the inaction of the United Progressive Alliance government on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue, it had no problems at all in seeking the support of the Congress for its candidate Kanimozhi, daughter of party president M. Karunanidhi. All the DMK’s rhetoric in the weeks leading to the breakup in March this year now rings hollow. Just as cold political calculations provoked the divorce, petty political compromises have forced a reunion. On what terms the DMK bought the support of the Congress, and whether the arrangement will last till the general election next year are not clear just yet. But, for all the happy faces in posed photographs, the friends-turned-foes-turned friends again do not make a pretty picture.
In contrast, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam played its cards far more shrewdly. The party had the numbers to win four seats comfortably, and could have bagged a fifth with the backing of DMDK dissidents, former allies, and some help from a divided opposition. Indeed, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced five candidates initially, before withdrawing one after an open appeal for support from the Communist Party of India. Soon after the 2011 Assembly election, the AIADMK had alienated many of its allies, particularly the Left parties. On more than one occasion Ms. Jayalalithaa had said her party would face the Lok Sabha polls alone, and aim to win all the 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. But in scaling down her ambition a notch, she won back the support and gratitude of the two Left parties. Irrespective of whether the AIADMK decides to go along with the Left in the Lok Sabha election or not, the party’s options have only increased after the Rajya Sabha election. And, as a bonus, the party also managed to expose the DMK and the Congress as opportunistic and self-serving partners in an unholy alliance.