The DMK is still licking its wounds following its humiliating performance in the recent assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. From being a ruling party, it is not even the State's main Opposition party today. Vijaykanth's DMDK, which won 29 seats (six more than the DMK), has bagged this privilege as the second largest party in the Assembly.
The 2G scam and domination of DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s family members in different fields including television, cinema, and their alleged amassing of wealth through various illegal activities cost the party dearly in the polls.
So, is it time to write the DMK's epitaph then? Not really. The DMK has got quite a bit of fight left in it and it has the ability to pick up the pieces and rebuild itself.
That way, the DMK and the AIADMK are similar to each other. Both are cadre based parties that have weathered many storms. In the 1996 assembly polls, the AIADMK had lost even more badly. The AIADMK-Congress alliance had won just four seats then and even Jayalalithaa lost her seat.
The DMK along with Tamil Maanila Congress of G K Moopanar had won a landslide victory. The major reason attributed to Jayalalithaa's defeat was the rampant corruption that had prevailed during her tenure.
Actor Rajnikanth had famously said during the run-up to the polls that even God could not save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalithaa were to be re-elected. Of course, Jayalalithaa returned to power in 2001, lost in 2006, and is back again with a thumping majority in 2011.
Jayalalithaa fought the corruption cases filed against her in court and has been acquitted in all but a lone disproportionate wealth case which is pending in a Bangalore court.
Karunanidhi also has faced corruption charges in the past. He was indicted by the Sarkaria Commission for favouring a contractor in the Veeranam water supply project in the 1970s when he was chief minister.
The Sarkaria Commission had noted: "It has been established that Shri. Karunanidhi, abusing his official position as chief minister, actuated with the motive to unduly favour Sathyanarayana Brothers with the award of the contract for the Veeranam project, directed the chief engineer, Shri. Hussain, to tailor his recommendations on the tenders in such a manner as would enable the Government to accept the tender of Sathyanarayana Bros... There is no doubt that Shri. Karunanidhi was interested in the contract being given to Sathyanarayana Bros. for some extraneous consideration."
The point is that both the DMK and the AIADMK have faced charges of corruption in the past, but have still managed to come back to power. It has been the pattern in Tamil Nadu because there is no other party that has the capacity to challenge the two. When people get fed up with the corruption of one party, they have voted for the other.
The DMDK, which projected itself as an alternative to the two Dravidian parties, let down those looking for a change by aligning with the AIADMK. The DMDK has a long way to go to catch up with either the DMK or the AIADMK in terms of voter support.
Only the politically naive would believe that Vijaykanth's party has overtaken the DMK just because it has emerged as the second largest party in the current assembly. For, in terms of vote share, the DMK had secured 22.39 percent votes as against DMDK's mere 7.88 percent share.
While there is no major threat from a third party to its position as the main rival to the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu at the moment, the DMK can however concede that advantage if it fails to address the crucial question of who is going to succeed Karunanidhi - Stalin or Alagiri?
If Karunanidhi does not settle this issue in his lifetime, the party may witness a succession war between the two brothers, which may even lead to a split in the DMK.
Also read: 2G plays nemesis for DMK
P C Vinoj Kumar edits an online magazine, The Weekend Leader (www.theweekendleader.com)