Those who have dealt with TKS Elangovan know for a fact that he is a careful spokesperson.

Is TKS Elangovans ToI interview and DMKs denial a smart political strategyImage: TKS Elangovan FB page
Blog Thursday, September 03, 2015 - 17:00

On Thursday, Times of India carried an interview with DMK spokesperson and former Lok Sabha MP TKS Elangovan, who made some surprising revelations about the party’s mindset on future alliances.

Here are the main pointers from the interview to Jayaraj Sivan of ToI,

One, DMK will contest at least 170 of the 234 assembly seats in the 2016 elections.

Two, Tamil Manila Congress should not expect more than 30 seats in an alliance.

Three, PMK and VCK have a caste-based approach, so DMK is not too keen on an alliance with them.

Four, DMK is comfortable working with DMDK, Congress, DMDK and MDMK, but hints at DMDK’s non-cooperation during Rajya Sabha elections. He is encouraging about the TN Congress and itsEVKS Elangovan, but says Congress is a marginalized force.

And five, he supports Raja, Kanimozhi and Maran over their corruption allegations.

These are very important issues, and the decision on such issues is usually expected from the top-two - Karunanidhi or Stalin. No wonder then that word spread like wildfire later on Thursday that the DMK leadership was extremely unhappy with TKS Elangovan’s interview. Party sources willingly hinted, but only hinted, that the leadership, both Stalin and Karunanidhi are angry with TKS for the statements. This is after all their domain, even if TKS was a senior leader.

Later, the party also issued an official press release. In a short and crisp denial, the party distanced itself from the interview. The release said that what appeared as TKS’s views in the paper were wrong and that no one should believe that.

What happened behind the screen in politics is always in the realm of speculation. But when something does not make sense, all we can do is try to find out more and speculate reasonably.

Those who have dealt with TKS Elangovan know for a fact that he is a careful spokesperson. There might have been some slip-ups in the past, but that’s an unavoidable occupational hazard for a political spokesperson. It is not entirely believable that TKS Elangovan gave an interview to Times of India on serious issues such as alliance-politics without the permission of either of the top-two.

He is not known to be that careless, and he is definitely seasoned enough to know that the decisions he spoke of are not for him to make public. In fact, there is little chance that a number as specific as 170 is something that TKS alone could have come up with.

So then what is this all about? Before that, here is what is happening as a result of the interview.

To hear the number 170 at this stage has made several in the DMK cadre happy. Their resentment over the previous elections were that the party contested only 119 seats, giving away a huge chunk to the Congress then. This affected the party all across TN, with many strongmen having denied seats. It was one of the main reasons for the party to perform so poorly in 2011. 

Two, and most importantly, this has now set the tone for further negotiations with other parties. This has effectively put all the parties on the back-foot. All discussions will now start at 170. It is after all, a key negotiation technique to lower expectations as much as possible before the talks begin.  Every party will now start working out what there possible share could be in a potential alliance and see that they have little space, and perhaps understand that DMK is all set play it tough.

Is it then a carefully thought out strategy by the DMK to send a signal to its allies?

Of course, this could have also been a genuine mistake by TKS Elangovan. But who knows, Karunanidhi is not called the “wily old fox” for no reason.

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