It was a 'courtesy call', they said.

With Jayalalithaa gone and Karunanidhi unwell AIADMK leaders visit DMK chief
news Politics Saturday, December 17, 2016 - 15:56

It was a sight that may have seemed unimaginable a few weeks ago - AIADMK leaders, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker and MP Thambidurai and MLA D Jayakumar, visiting an ailing DMK President M Karunanidhi at Kauvery hospital in Chennai. The legendry rivalry between the two Dravidian stalwarts, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, made it impossible for lower-rung leaders to maintain cordial relationships in the open.That clearly seems to have changed now.

Speaking to reporters after enquiring about his health, Thambidurai said, “We met Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi and conveyed our wishes. We wish DMK chief Karunanidhi a speedy recovery on behalf of AIADMK and VK Saiskala.”

The arch-rivalry between the two Dravidian parties over the last 30 years has been fueled by vendetta politics driven by its leaders. While it may have begun with the infamous “Draupadi” incident in 1989, when Jayalalithaa, as Leader of the Opposition, was assaulted by DMK leaders at the Tamil Nadu Assembly, the bitter rivalry between the two political foes continued over the years.  

The animosity between the two leaders has been so deep-rooted that both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa chose to stay away from assembly proceedings when the other was Chief Minister. While it’s natural that some of this political enmity passed on to the cadres on the ground, there was, if expelled AIADMK leader Sasikala Pushpa is to be believed, an official diktat that party functionaries and elected representatives were not allowed to speak to DMK members.  

But in the last few weeks, this bitter rivalry between the DMK and the AIADMK has been set aside between the parties and its leaders. While DMK Treasurer MK Stalin visited late Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa on October 8, when she was in hospital, 92-year-old Karunanidhi wished her a speedy recovery despite “ideological differences”.    

Following Jayalalithaa’s demise on December 5, DMK leaders including Stalin and Kanimozhi paid their respects to her at the Rajaji Hall, where her body lay in state. An emotional crowd, mostly made up of ardent Jayalalithaa supporters were so touched by Stalin honouring their leader that they broke out into spontaneous applause.  While the DMK Treasurer described Jayalalithaa’s death as an “irreparable loss to the people of Tamil Nadu”, Karunanidhi stated that “wishes of lakhs of her followers will make her immortal.”  

And although many may see Thambidurai and Jayakumar’s visit as nothing more than a courtesy call, Jayalalithaa’s death and Karunanidhi’s declining health has perhaps ushered in a new era of cordial relationship and relative proximity between the members of the rival parties.

Political watcher Gnani Sankaran however cautions from this being read into too much. “These are political maneuverings, so we have to take it with a pinch of salt,” he says.

“There was of course a lot of hatred between Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, and with one of them gone, this mutual hatred will not continue. But I won’t look too far beyond this, the party rivalry will continue among leaders,” he says.

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