The DMK and Congress are distancing themselves from each other as the
ADMK and BJP draw closer, with everybody eyeing the next general
The recent trading of accusations between the DMK and the Congress on
certain issues is perhaps the prelude to a regrouping of parties in
Tamil Nadu before the next general election.
While no major split is in the offing before the Budget of 2008, with
both parties deciding to row in the same boat until then, the alliance
does not appear tenable between the two political parties in the long
With the Congress on a weak wicket after losing the recent Assembly
election in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the DMK appears to have
decided in favour of an ‘open door’ policy.
The DMK and the Congress depend on each other to prop up their
Governments in Tamil Nadu and the Centre respectively.
The DMK, 22 short of a simple majority in the 234-member State
Assembly, is being extended outside support by its DPA allies — Congress
(35), PMK (18), the Left parties (15) and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi
(VCK) (2). The Congress-led UPA Government needs DMK’s support since the
DMK has the largest number of seats.
Of late, the relationship between the DMK and the Congress has soured
due to the Ram Sehtu controversy. This was quickly followed by the
recent controversial LTTE issue, but both seem to have decided to paper
over the cracks.
The cracks were clearly visible in their divergent approach to the
Ram Setu project. The DMK supports the project and its Ministers are
restless that the UPA Government has been indecisive on the issue. It
appears that the proposed dredging of the Adam’s Bridge area of the Palk
Strait for a shipping channel is to be in limbo for some time to come.
The UPA Government has more or less decided to put the project on
hold until archaeological excavations of the Adam’s Bridge are
completed, in view of the furore over Hindu emotions. The BJP as well as
the ADMK have jumped into the fray to agitate against the project.
DMK leader Karunanidhi
The tension over Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s advocacy of the
Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project may have eased temporarily, but
he has other problems in regard to the perception that he has a soft
corner for the LTTE. Look at the way Karunanidhi reacted to the recent
pinpricks on LTTE.
What really provoked Karunanidhi was the attitude of his coalition
partner, the Congress. The immediate provocation was apparently the
alleged remarks made by the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee leaders
including Finance Minister P Chidambaram in a public meeting at
Stung by the unceasing criticism against him by the leaders of the
TNCC over the issue of action against supporters of LTTE, last week
Karunanidhi strongly defended his Government’s chiding the Congress
leaders and announced that he was ready to “lose power” over the issue.
Last year when disinvestment of Neyveli Lignite Corporation was
proposed, the ADMK and other parties had agitated, eliciting a threat
from Karunanidhi that he would have to reconsider the DMK’s support to
the UPA Government if it was not put on hold. It took just 20 minutes
for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make an announcement that
disinvestment of all public sector undertaking were being put on hold.
This time, too, Mr Karunanidhi’s statement that he is ready to lose
power has created panic at the Centre with the Prime Minister and the
Finance Minister not wanting any trouble before the budget. They are
said to have “clarified things” to the DMK chief. The latest news is
that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is somewhat ‘mollified’.
What irked Karunanidhi? The Congress staged a walkout from the
Assembly last week in protest of the State Government’s failure to act
against those who spoke in public in support of the LTTE. This was the
first time the Congress had walked out on the DMK Government after it
became a coalition partner in 2004.
The walkout happened even after the Chief Minister assured the
Congress that he was ready to frame a law to take action against those
supporting or expressing solidarity with the banned terrorist
Interestingly, the issue generated a new camaraderie between the ADMK
and the Congress, when members of the former extended support to the
latter when the subject was raised in the House. The DMK chief simply
could not digest it.
It is becoming clear now that with the country moving towards an
election, the desire of all political parties to show that they have no
links with the LTTE or the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi will grow stronger
as much as the opposition to secessionists in Sri Lanka.
ADMK chief J Jayalalithaa faces threat to her life from the LTTE and
has even moved the court to demand protection. With instability in the
island country, its echo is being heard in Tamil Nadu.
Meanwhile Jayalalithaa is using all political acumen at her disposal
to drive a wedge between the Congress and the DMK. It is evident that
regroupings are on the anvil. The ADMK is also talking to the BJP. The
MDMK is with the ADMK and Ms Jayalalithaa is not talking anymore about
MDMK chief Vaiko’s support to the LTTE.
There are rumours that filmstar Vijay Kant, who had floated a new
political party before the 2004 general election, where his party got an
8 per cent vote share, is talking to the Congress. Evergreen superstar
Rajnikant is another factor that comes to the fore before every Tamil
Nadu election. The PMK is talking of a ‘Third Front’ with all these
parties. All options are open for all parties in the game of elections.