US embassy cable - 06CHENNAI393

TAMIL NADU ELECTION: DRAMATIC CHANGES AS CAMPAIGN BEGINS

Identifier: 06CHENNAI393
Wikileaks: View 06CHENNAI393 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Chennai
Created: 2006-03-06 11:21:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV PINR PTER IN
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO8925
RR RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHCG #0393/01 0651121
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061121Z MAR 06
FM AMCONSUL CHENNAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7551
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1498
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 4702
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 0451
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1182
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHENNAI 000393 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PTER, IN 
SUBJECT: TAMIL NADU ELECTION: DRAMATIC CHANGES AS 
CAMPAIGN BEGINS 
 
REF: CHENNAI 0062 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: With Tamil Nadu state assembly 
elections slated for May 8, intense political activity 
is changing the shape of party alliances.  Vaiko, an 
LTTE supporter (Reftel) and fiery orator, has led his 
party out of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) fold 
to join hands with his former foe, Chief Minister J 
Jayalalithaa.  She has also roped in to her coalition 
the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), another party which 
supports the LTTE.  If, after the elections, these 
parties' support turns out to be critical for the 
survival of a future government of Jayalalithaa, she 
might tone down her aggressive rhetorical opposition 
to the LTTE, but substantive changes in the state's 
opposition toward the LTTE are unlikely.  The MDMK's 
departure from the DMK fold could lead to the ouster 
of its four MPs from the UPA coalition at the Center. 
END SUMMARY 
 
------------------------------------------ 
NO PERMANENT ENEMIES, NO PERMANENT FRIENDS 
------------------------------------------ 
 
2. (SBU) Long the scene of dramatic politics, Tamil 
Nadu is seeing major changes in its battle lineup for 
the May 8 elections.  On March 4, Vaiko, the supreme 
leader of the MDMK (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra 
Kazhagam) party announced a parting of ways with the 
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) alliance.  Joining 
hands with Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her AIADMK 
party, Vaiko endorsed her view that "there are no 
permanent enemies or permanent friends in politics." 
In July 2002, Jayalalithaa jailed Vaiko for 19 months 
under the now-lapsed Prevention of Terrorism Act on 
charges of supporting the banned Liberation Tigers of 
Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  All that is now relegated to the 
past, including Vaiko's own campaign against 
Jayalalithaa's "fascist regime," as he termed it upon 
his release from jail. 
 
------------------------------------ 
VAIKO TO POST: "THEY BLACKED ME OUT" 
------------------------------------ 
 
3. (SBU) Vaiko told Post by telephone on March 6 that 
his decision was due to the deliberate suppression and 
humiliation of his party by the DMK.  He complained 
that ever since he was released from prison, the DMK's 
television channel, SUN TV, had been blacking out all 
news of him and his party.  Vaiko mentioned that DMK 
chief Karunanidhi, if he were to win the election, 
might decide to hand over the reins of the government 
and party to his son Stalin, an outcome obviously not 
to Vaiko's liking.  But Vaiko told Post, "That was not 
the key factor behind my decision, it was the 
harassment.  I am a fighter, you know, I cannot stand 
the humiliation".  Another benefit for Vaiko is the 
fact that under his agreement with Jayalalithaa, 
Vaiko's MDMK party will contest 35 seats as opposed to 
the 22 seats he was offered by the DMK leadership. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
WILL VAIKO CONTINUE IN UPA?  SONIA TO DECIDE 
------------------------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) Vaiko's MDMK party has four Members of 
Parliament, who support the UPA government at the 
Center.  Vaiko wants to continue support for the UPA, 
but the DMK, also a part of the UPA coalition, has 
already demanded ouster of the MDMK from the alliance. 
"It is up to Sonia Gandhi, the UPA chairperson to 
decide whether we continue in the UPA or not," said 
Vaiko.  "In any case, we do not have any ministers at 
the Center," he said, meaning there is little for him 
to lose if he were to be thrown out of the alliance. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
DALIT PANTHERS: ANOTHER PARTY IN JAYA'S KITTY 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) The AIADMK party, which was in total 
isolation until recently, has now also brought on 
board another ally, the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI). 
DPI is a party of the formerly untouchable caste of 
"Parayas" and is led by a young LTTE supporter, 
Thirumavalavan.  Several northern districts of Tamil 
 
CHENNAI 00000393  002 OF 002 
 
 
Nadu have significant presence of this low caste group 
and their presence can be used to counter the DMK's 
alliance with the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a party 
of the Vanniars, a dominant caste group in the same 
districts.  Union Health Minister and PMK leader 
Anbumani told Post that although his party wanted the 
DPI to be accommodated within the DMK-led alliance, 
the DMK would not have them for fear that the PMK and 
DPI together "would form a formidable combination in 
north Tamil Nadu". 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
DMK PUTS UP BRAVE FACE; FIELDS SONIA TO START CAMPAIGN 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
6. (SBU) In public statements, the DMK has put up a 
brave face on the bolting by the MDMK.  In private 
conversation with Post, however, DMK leader and Member 
of Parliament Shanmughasundaram (protect) acknowledged 
that Vaiko's decision would make a dent in its 
coalition.  "MDMK has 3-4 percent committed voters, 
" he said.  Additionally, Vaiko's departure deprives 
the DMK of one of their major campaign themes against 
Jayalalithaa: misuse of the Prevention of Terrorism 
Act.  "Vaiko is a good campaigner.  We will miss him 
in the elections.  Now with his going over to the 
other side, how can we complain of his unlawful 
detention?" Shanmughasundaram asked.  However, 
Shanmughasundaram expressed confidence that as long as 
the DMK, the Congress and the PMK stand together, 
along with the Communist parties and the Muslim 
parties, the coalition will remain formidable. 
 
7. (SBU) The DMK hosted Sonia Gandhi at the party's 
State Conference in Tiruchi on March 5, to kick off 
the election campaign.  She showered praise on DMK 
chief Karunanidhi and the union ministers from Tamil 
Nadu and urged the DMK cadre to ensure that the people 
are freed from the AIADMK misrule. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
JOURNALIST BELIEVES JAYA HAS MORE GROUND TO COVER 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
8. (SBU) According to senior journalist of the 
Hindustan Times, G.C. Shekhar, the "accrual of 
strength in recent days" has greatly improved Chief 
Minister Jayalalithaa's election prospects.  He, 
however, believes that the DMK alliance still has a 
lead over Jaya's group by 60-40 percent.  That will 
change if Jayalalithaa is able to further expand her 
alliance to include the matinee star Vijayakant's new 
"DMDK" party.  Shekar acknowledged that there is no 
major anti-incumbency sentiment prevailing in the 
state - a huge factor that could turn the public mood 
in Jayalalithaa's favor. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
ALL IS FAIR IN WAR AND TAMIL NADU POLITICS 
------------------------------------------ 
 
9. (SBU) COMMENT: In the unlikely event of 
Jayalalithaa's AIADMK party being critically dependent 
on her pro-LTTE allies for formation of government, it 
is conceivable that she would tone down her aggressive 
anti-LTTE rhetoric.  Still, circumscribed as it is by 
the central government's policies on the issue, the 
state's tough policy toward the LTTE is unlikely to 
change.  A possible exit of the MDMK's four MPs from 
the Central UPA coalition would mean some -- but no 
great -- loss to the Union Government.  The common man 
does not seem to be bothered by the apparent 
incongruities in the alliance between the AIADMK and 
the MDMK, bitter opponents in the recent past.  In 
Tamil Nadu, where political battles are passionately 
fought and equally passionately followed by the 
public, all seems to be fair in war and politics. END 
COMMENT 
 
HOPPER 

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