Weird as it may seem, the AIADMK is more keen than the DMK even to see Karunanidhi's son and arch rival M K Stalin take over the mantle of Opposition Leader in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
The AIADMK alliance with the DMDK lasted just a few months and although the tie-up was extremely successful in the May elections, events in the last session have set the two parties on a bitter collision course. At the end of the May polls, the DMDK had notched up 29 seats and its leader Vijayakanth came out as the Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly.
The suspension of Vijayakanth, at the instance of the ruling AIADMK, and the sharp exchange of words between Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the actor, the attack on posters of the two parties and the occasional physical clash between their supporters have all led to a critical end point.
The AIADMK leadership is keen on snatching the post of Opposition Leader from Vijayakanth and handing it over to DMK’s Stalin. Under the old maxim of picking your enemy wisely, the AIADMK now sees Vijayakanth as far worse than Stalin.
The secret plan hatched by the AIADMK is to break the DMDK and wean away at least 8 MLAs to reduce the DMDK to third position in the Assembly. The DMK, with just 23 MLAs, could well end up as the main opposition in the House, thanks to the AIADMK.
AIADMK sources say that Jaya is extremely upset over the tone and tenor of Vijayakanth's accusations against the AIADMK.
No one even in the DMK has spoken to Jayalalithaa in the manner that Vijayakanth has done in the last few weeks, they claim. This is something that the AIADMK cannot digest. The strategy is not just to teach the "ungrateful" Vijayakanth a lesson but also to cut the DMDK down to size and belittle it in the eyes of the public so that the actor cannot position himself as an alternative to Jayalalithaa.
The problem for the AIADMK is that although certain fringe leaders of the DMDK have quit the DMDK and joined Amma's party, there has been no success so far in their plan to target the DMDK MLAs.
Sources say that the DMDK is proving a hard nut to crack, especially since Vijayakanth had given tickets by and large to activists of his fan clubs (rasikar manrams). These fans-turned-MLAs are extremely loyal to Vijayakanth and have so far turned down offers of power and money.
It would be a windfall gain for Stalin if the AIADMK's plan succeeds. Firstly, it would provide Stalin the ideal platform to project himself as the chief ministerial aspirant in the next Assembly elections. Secondly, he would acquire status and an eminent position in the Assembly since the Leader of the Opposition could get up at any point of time and be heard in the House as a matter of right.
Thirdly, the DMDK would be pushed to third position, behind the DMK. At present, the DMK finds itself in an embarrassing position of being seen as third in the Assembly so it becomes a matter of pride for the DMK to ensure AIADMK's plan unfold.
One reason why the AIADMK has no inhibitions in elevating Stalin is that the ties between Jayalalithaa and Stalin are much better than that between the AIADMK and the DMK. Man to man, AIADMK leaders concede that Stalin had been decent even when the DMK was in power and he was its Deputy Chief Minister.
They point out that Stalin wanted to personally invite Jayalalithaa to the opening of the new Secretariat building during DMK rule but his father prevented it since he felt it would provide an opportunity for Jayalalithaa to meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Stalin was also responsible for the odd friendly gesture of the House granting Jayalalithaa permission to stay away from the Assembly for a long period on grounds of ill-health.
Stalin's speeches, even though directed against the AIADMK, were not marked by rancour. Personal barbs were rare. During the campaign for the May 2011 elections, the AIADMK guns were trained more at Karunanidhi’s other son, M K Azhagiri, rather than Stalin.
It is under this context that Jaya's secret moves are gaining momentum. It is therefore no surprise that Jayalalithaa should now choose to bat for Stalin.