The DMK and Congress have been longstanding allies yet, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has never paid a visit to the DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi until Saturday. Rahul Gandhi paid a visit to the Kauvery Hospital in Chennai, where Karunanidhi has been admitted since Thursday. The visit comes a day after the 92-year-old leader had undergone a tracheostomy to optimise breathing. He had been hospitalised on Thursday night following breathing difficulties owing to a throat and lung infection.
Karunanidhi undergoes tracheostomy a day after hospitalisation
He was accompanied by senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram, EVKS Elangovan, and state Congress chief Thirunavukkarasar. Also present were DMK Treasurer MK Stalin, Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, and senior leader Durai Murugan. Soon after his 15-minute visit, Rahul Gandhi told reporters, "I wanted to personally wish him a speedy recovery. I was happpy to see that he is doing well. Doctors have told me that he is recovering and will be going back home soon, Congress President also sends her regards to him. SO, that's good news. He is a leader of the dynamic people of Tamil Nadu, so I thought I would come and wish him personally."
Rahul Gandhiâ€™s visit on Saturday will reduce resentment among DMK cadres, who have been upset over the Congress leader never paying a courtesy call to Karunanidhi despite the two parties being long-time allies.
The last time the two leaders met was in 2009 when Karunanidhi as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister had visited New Delhi following the Lok Sabha elections.
In September 2009, Rahul Gandhi had been in Tamil Nadu for three days as part of his plan to revitalise the Congress in the state. He, however, avoided visiting Karunanidhi, with Congress leaders stating at the time that Rahul Gandhi was in TN as an MP and did not normally call on allies in other states. A very upset DMK had condemned Rahul Gandhi then for not respecting a political veteran like Karunanidhi.
Since then, the Congress VP has maintained a distance from the DMK Chief, sending out a clear political message following the 2G scam.
During the 2016 assembly elections Rahul Gandhi never shared the stage with Karunanidhi, despite the DMK insisting to the media that it would happen.
He did, however, share the stage with DMK Treasurer MK Stalin in Madurai and with Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi in Coimbatore on May 8 for the 2016 assembly elections.
Interestingly, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has maintained close ties with Karunanidhi, sharing the stage with him on multiple occasions, including in May 2016 ahead of the polls.
The Congress scionâ€™s visit also comes months after he visited Karunanidhiâ€™s arch-rival and late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in hospital on October 7. Rahul Gandhiâ€™s surprise visit to the AIADMK supremo had set tongues wagging, especially since he did not extend the same courtesy to his ally, Karunanidhi that same day. His statement, â€śI came from Delhi to extend my support and Congress presidentâ€™s support,â€ť following his October visit triggered speculation over why he had chosen to call on Jayalalithaa. Neither Rahul nor his mother Sonia Gandhi share a political rapport with Jayalalithaa, especially after the AIADMK chief accused the Congress president of being a â€śforeign importâ€ť in the run-up to the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
Rahul Gandhi had also paid respects to Jayalalithaa following her demise, attending her funeral on December 6.
While political parties like the BJP and the Congress will hope to seize upon the political vacuum following Jayalalithaaâ€™s death, Rahul Gandhiâ€™s visit to Kauvery Hospital, will for now lay to rest rumours of a breakup between the DMK and the Congress.