TN polls: Did you know AIADMK & DMK were almost merged once?

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The politics of Tamil Nadu is mostly about the fierce rivalry between two Dravidian parties---DMK and AIADMK. In 2016, even under their ailing leaders, these two parties continue to dominate the southern state's political landscape.

Assembly Polls 2016 Coverage; Exit polls 2016

But, do we know that former Union minister Biju Patnaik, late father of current Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, had almost pulled off what looks an impossible task today: a merger of the AIADMK and DMK? [TN: Pre-poll surveys 2016]

jayalalithaa karunanidhi

Strange it may sound, but it was indeed close to reality in 1979. India was in the middle of its first non-Congress government at the Centre and the period was politically uncertain. The Janata government, which had come to power two years ago after Indira Gandhi's Congress was defeated after its excesses, was not in the best of health. [In 2011, CVoter's prediction came closest to reality, so...]

In Tamil Nadu, actor-politician MG Ramachandran was the chief minister. His party AIADMK, which was floated in 1972 after he left the DMK over differences with M Karunanidhi, came to power after just five years of formation.

MGR supported the Charan Singh government at the Centre and with another election looming large, he was in talks with Indira Gandhi, who was eyeing a comeback. But when a scheduled meeting between Indira Gandhi and MGR didn't take place, Patnaik entered into the scene.

Biju Patnaik made a move to make the impossible happen

Patnaik, who was a minister in both the governments of Morarji Desai and Charan Singh, shared a cordial relation with DMK chief Karunanidhi, particularly after the latter led a nationwide movement for the state's autonomy vis-à-vis the Centre in the early 1970s.

Patnaik then came up with the idea of merging the DMK and AIADMK and when Karunandihi wanted to know who was behind such an idea, Patnaik said it was MGR and he sought to know the DMK chief's thoughts on that.

Karunanidhi agreed but gave the conditions that DMK's name would be retained along with the AIADMK's flag. He also said MGR could continue as the chief minister while he would be the president of the party after the merger. Patnaik was elated since he had expected mush tougher terms for what seemed impossible.

Thereafter, Patnaik arranged for a meeting between the chiefs of the two parties at the Chepauk Guest House.

MGR and Karunanidhi agreed but then things fell apart due to some unknown reason

DMK general secretary K Anbazhagan and AIADMK's VR Nedunchezhian and Panruti Ramachandran were present at the venue while MGR and Karunanidhi met in another room. After reaching an agreement, the leaders decided to convene an emergency meeting of the executive council of their respective parties to pass resolutions on their merger.

But, surprisingly at a public meeting in Vellore, MGR did not speak about the merger and instead his ministers lashed out at the DMK. It was the end of the road for the mission.

More than 30 years since that meeting with MGR, Karunanidhi said at an event that it was one of MGR's cabinet minister who had ruined the possibility of a merger. He suspected that something must have happened after MGR left the meeting for Vellore.

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