Chennai: DMK's Kanimozhi returned back home to a raucous reception – a hug from her brother, hundreds gathered with garlands, bouquets, flags and masks, a dance performance, traditional drummers and a temporary stage cordoned off by police barricades.
The Rajya Sabha MP was making her way home two days after completing the court formalities that cleared her and party strongman, ex-Union Minister A Raja, of all corruption charges in the 2G Spectrum scam.
As scams go, this was touted as India's biggest – an estimated loss of 1.76 lakh crore, a number that was later brought down to Rs 30,000 crores when the trial began in the CBI court.
The clean chit has not only made the DMK leadership stronger and surer of itself, the cadre too feel re-energised. It is not often that you see the party working president MK Stalin hugging his sister. The eight year-long battle's culmination finally seems to have united the different wings of the Karunanidhi family.
A beaming Kanimozhi did a victory parade, opening up the top of her car to stand above the crowd and wave to them. Just before this, she and Raja met with workers patiently as a makeshift stage in the airport, greeting them with folded hands and accepting flowers.
It was clear that it was more a political stage, one with which they re-launched themselves as having 'arrived'.
"Definitely, it is a boom... DMK will go further through to the highest level," A Raja candidly admitted, when asked if they were using the opportunity to gain political mileage.
Although the party hopes that the effect of the 2G verdict will be seen first in the RK Nagar by-election results, their larger goal remains to gain back the electoral ground they've lost to the AIADMK.
Raja has already begun playing the emotions, writing a letter to Karunanidhi asking, "Who will punish those who tainted your 80-year public life?"
The DMK is beginning to cry foul and has termed the 2G spectrum scam a conspiracy against an 'ideological movement'.
In this, Raja calls the Congress-led UPA partners in being victimised. "It's a shame even the UPA government couldn't realise it was trapped in the plot to bring it down," Raja says in his letter.
Political analyst and associate editor of Frontline RK Radhakrishnan says, "The crowd is a clear indication of the love and support that Kanimozhi enjoys within the party. This should help in further strengthening the party and create a new vote bank for the DMK among women – a traditional blind spot for the party during the Jayalalithaa and MGR years."
Is that what prompted that Stalin to cozy up to his sister, to show a united front? Kanimozhi certainly was talking about how overwhelmed she was that her brother came to receive her, mentioning this at least twice during her different conversations with the media.
After all, there is no space in politics for sentiment, as Radhakrishnan points out, "How much ever compelling the optics may be, it is all common or shared interests."
For the party, this is a good time to get good news. They are in a state that is seeing much factionalism in the ruling party. For all the 'united AIADMK' face that Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy and his deputy O Panneerselvam put up, rumours of fissures keep cropping up. There are already leaders like V Maitreyan who have expressed disappointment in this EPS-OPS 'merger' not leading up to anything.
Then there is the TTV Dinakaran faction, armed with at least 18 MLAs and many more 'sleeper cell MLAs'. With a divided house ruling the State, the DMK is poised to score much more electorally, only that the elections are at least four years away.
There is the, though, the Lok Sabha election to be faced in 2019 and Tamil Nadu has a significant chunk of 39 seats. How the party plays its pawns ahead of 2019 will determine its chances in the 2021 Assembly election as well.