“Aneedhi vizhum, aram vellum,” scribbled M Karunanidhi reportedly after he heard of the verdict in the 2G case, in which his favourite child Kanimozhi was one of the accused. It translates to “injustice will fail, righteousness will prevail”. The sense of relief in the nonagenarian is apparent. A conviction for Kanimozhi and Andimuthu Raja, the DMK's Dalit face, would have dealt its political future a body blow. The acquittal has given the party of the rising sun, a fresh glow.
For months leading up to the D-day, DMK leaders, I spoke to, expressed confidence that the court would not find the duo guilty. Their confidence was based on the theory that it was a case built on a false reading of how Raja as the Union telecom minister interpreted the rules for spectrum allocation. The DMK also believed that it was a political conspiracy hatched to defame them, with the Tamil Nadu Assembly election of 2011 in mind. In both 2011 and the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, the DMK paid the price and fared abysmally.
Today soon after the judgment came out, a DMK leader called to ask if I read what Justice OP Saini said about the case. I read, and one paragraph, to my mind, summed up the essence of the case. Justice Saini wrote, "For the last about seven years, on all working days, summer vacation included, I religiously sat in the open court from 10 am to 5 pm, awaiting someone with some legally admissible evidence in his possession, but all in vain. Not a single soul turned up. This indicates that everybody was going by public perception created by rumour, gossip and speculation. However, public perception has no place in judicial proceedings.''
It is this certificate of innocence, validated by the court, the DMK will go to town with, in Tamil Nadu. AIADMK being a house divided and no leader of eminence to take on MK Stalin, the DMK would fancy its chances the next time Tamil Nadu goes to polls — be it the elections to the local bodies that are long overdue or the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 or Assembly elections — whenever they are held.
But is 2G still an issue in Tamil Nadu? It was not spoken about, except in occasional barbs during TV studio debates, in the Assembly elections last year. It is not an issue in the RK Nagar by-election that is taking place on Thursday. Which is why, opinion is divided over how much the DMK will really stand to gain from this positive judgment, except among the chattering classes of Chennai and Delhi where it will have much to crow about.
The country still knows very little of Stalin
The real story will be in how Stalin moves from here. He has already shown inclinations that at least for public posturing, he will not indulge in unclean politics that have been the bane of Tamil Nadu. He refused to entertain AIADMK rebels who were reportedly willing to prop up a DMK government after the political upheaval earlier this year, because they expected money in return. He made it a point to announce in RK Nagar that his party will not distribute money, which the other two biggies — AIADMK and TTV Dhinakaran — are accused of doing. The "Swachh DMK" certificate, issued by the court, will give Stalin more bragging rights.
Politically, Stalin can be expected to drive a hard bargain with his ally, the Congress. He will fancy his chances of emerging as a strongman south of the Vindhyas. The country knows very little of Stalin despite him being in public life for close to five decades as he always had to play second fiddle to father Karunanidhi.
Kanimozhi can be expected to play a bigger role in Delhi.
Though Stalin is a UPA partner, the BJP won't spare efforts to woo him, especially if he is seen as the man who has his nose ahead in Chennai. Already Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it a point to spend time with Stalin, when he dropped in at Karunanidhi's Chennai residence last month. Modi's invitation to Karunanidhi to rest at the PM's residence in Delhi was a personal touch to soften the son. A lot could, however, depend on the numbers the next Lok Sabha throws up.
Rahul Gandhi also knows that the DMK could well hold the key if a non-NDA formation has to come within striking distance of coming to power in Delhi in 2019. Which is why soon after the verdict, both Gandhi and Manmohan Singh made it a point to call Kanimozhi to congratulate her. Stalin's stepsister can be expected to play a bigger role in Delhi.
The verdict cleanses the DMK of the corruption tag that has dogged it for over seven years. It was branded as a greedy party, eager to loot in Delhi to fill the coffers in Chennai. What Tamil Nadu and India are likely to see now is a DMK 2.0, post-2G verdict.