First off the block in naming and backing the two candidates, Tamil Nadu's Dravidian heavyweights have made quite a statement in the race for Rashtrapati Bhavan. But this Presidential election was at best a semi-final. The political significance revolves around the final, which is the next general election. Whether that will be in 2014 or earlier will depend on how many UPA allies do a Mamata or Pawar like sulk.
The ruling AIADMK blew the first whistle. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was the first political leader in the country to name her presidential nominee. Playing the tribal card, the astute Amma
garnered support from not just other Chief Ministers like Naveen Patnaik but also more importantly got the NDA to back her candidate. This was Jayalalithaa's magic wand at work. A party with just 9 Lok Sabha MPs got the entire NDA to fall in line and support her chosen one. Sangma, who drove into Poes Garden to thank the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister when his campaign ended, seemed more like an AIADMK-sponsored candidate than an NDA nominee! With the net practice over, the stage is now set for the big Parliamentary match, with Jayalalithaa probably playing a sheet anchor role in Team NDA. With a massive majority in the Tamil Nadu Assembly won just last year and 4 more years in office, the AIADMK will obviously be a coveted ally. From that position of strength, comes a bigger bargaining chip. AIADMK insiders predict that if Amma wins 25 or 30 Lok Sabha seats, she could easily play King Maker as well.
Across the divide, Karunanidhi may also be smiling; his mild indisposition and brief hospitalisation yesterday, notwithstanding. The DMK was among the first few allies, the Congress high command took into confidence while zeroing in on Pranab Mukherjee for the top job. And when other allies like Mamata 'Didi' came out with their own lists, the DMK was the first party to throw its weight behind 'Dada'. Not surprisingly, the former Finance Minister chose Chennai as one of his early campaign stops. And while other constituents of the UPA have been throwing tantrums over the pecking order, Karunanidhi is yet to even seek the filing up of Cabinet berths arising out of the resignations of A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran. The grand old man of the party has cemented his ties with the Congress and has earned considerable goodwill with 10 Janpath. That's if you brush aside the occasional sabre rattling over price hikes and the Congress discomfiture over Karunanidhi's TESO (Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation) meeting next month.
In the ultimate analysis, both the Dravidian rivals seem to have won a free hit for the upcoming big final!