Tamil Nadu

DMK snaps ties with Congress

Print edition : January 10, 2014

M. Karunanidhi, DMK president. Photo: HANDOUT

It was a nonchalant mood that prevailed at Satyamurti Bhavan, the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee’s (TNCC) headquarters, on December 17 in Chennai. B.S. Gnanadesikan, TNCC president, was in his room meeting middle-level Congress leaders, who seemed to be a relaxed lot. Two days earlier, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi had announced that his party would not ally with the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections. “We were expecting it,” said several Congressmen. “We can’t weep, can we?” said Gnanadesikan, when he was asked about the cool mood at Satyamurti Bhavan.

Karunanidhi’s categorical announcement that his party would not ally with the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the April/May 2014 Lok Sabha elections came at the DMK’s general council meeting in Chennai on December 15. At the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general council meeting held in Chennai on December 19, party general secretary and Chief Minister Jayalathithaa said the party’s “goal” was to contest “alone” and win in all the 40 (39 in Tamil Nadu and one in the Union Territory of Puducherry) Lok Sabha seats. “You have passed a resolution stressing this standpoint,” she told the general council members. At the same time, you have empowered me to take a decision on forming an alliance and to take all decisions with regard to the elections. This shows the full trust you have in me. In all situations, the decisions I take will only be to benefit the AIADMK. This is what I want to tell you.”

The DMK’s decision vis-à-vis the Congress was a foregone conclusion because of the frosty relationship between the two parties from 2010 and the DMK’s eventual exit, in March 2013, from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre. What was surprising was that the DMK shut the door on the BJP as well.

While M.K. Stalin, DMK treasurer and Karunanidhi’s son, has not hidden his antipathy towards the Congress, top DMK leaders prepared the ground at the general council meeting for Karunanidhi’s announcement. Former Union Ministers T.R. Baalu and S.S. Palanimanickam, and former Rajya Sabha member Tiruchi N. Siva spoke out against the DMK reviving its ties with the Congress.

Significantly, J. Anbalagan, legislator and Stalin’s protege, pressed for the DMK to cosy up to the BJP. But several others did not want the DMK to enter the BJP parlour again. Indeed, until the general council met, the DMK’s quiet stand was that “if the BJP is ready, we are also ready”. But BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Narendra Modi reportedly did not warm up to the DMK’s overtures because the 2G spectrum scam had sullied the party’s image.

At the general council meeting, Karunanidhi argued that “the BJP of Vajpayee is different from the BJP of today”. Former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee was “a humane leader”, and “a gem among the masses” who lent an ear to the demands of the then DMK government in Tamil Nadu, he said. (The DMK was a part of the BJP-led coalition government at the Centre from 1999 to 2004.) The former Chief Minister argued that the era of the DMK’s relationship with the BJP ended with Vajpayee demitting office, and he called Advani an “inhuman” person but did not elaborate.

The DMK president called the Congress an “ungrateful” ally. He said it was the Congress-led UPA government that had sent the DMK’s then Union Minister A. Raja and its Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi to prison by implicating them in the 2G spectrum scam.

The argument that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was handling the case and so the UPA government could not interfere in it would not wash, he said. “Who is holding the CBI’s reins in his hands? Whose weapon is the CBI? Do not people know?” Karunanidhi asked. "Did not the Congress, which is in power in New Delhi, cause all the humiliation to Raja and Kanimozhi by putting them in jail? We will not forget all this,” Karunanidhi said. Worse, an attempt was made to embroil the DMK itself in the scandal, he added.

More importantly, the DMK cannot forget how the Congress government at the Centre had “cheated” the DMK in the Sri Lankan Tamil issue or how the DMK had been unable to protect the Tamil Nadu fishermen who were repeatedly attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy, Karunanidhi said. “Don’t entertain any notion that we will forget all this and realign with the Congress,” he told the general council members.

A combative Karunanidhi declared, “Even if no party wants to align with us, we will not be bothered…. We will stand alone.” The DMK contesting “alone” implied, he added, its partnering with friendly parties.

What hurt Congressmen was Karunanidhi calling the Congress an “ungrateful” ally. Gnanadesikan said that if the Congress had been ungrateful, it would not have supported Kanimozhi’s candidature to the Rajya Sabha in June 2013 after the DMK had walked out of the UPA. The Congress’ unconditional support to the minority DMK government from 2006 to 2011 ensured the latter’s survival, he said.

“We adjusted to the maximum. Besides, Karunanidhi was given the utmost respect by our leader Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” said Gnanadesikan. Unlike Karunanidhi, who wrote to several parties, including the Congress, for their support to the DMK candidate in the byelection to the Yercaud Assembly seat, the Congress had not written to the DMK for support for the coming Lok Sabha elections, the TNCC president said. Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko argued that there was “nothing new” in the DMK’s decision because it had already left the UPA.

The BJP leader L. Ganesan asserted that the party had no plan to partner the DMK or the AIADMK. Informed DMK leaders said that with the BJP projecting Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, the DMK, if it partnered with the BJP, would lose the Muslim vote, which was about 12 per cent of the electorate. The DMK wants to retain this vote bank because its sights are set on the 2016 elections to the State Assembly. In 1999, Muslim voters in Tamil Nadu accepted the DMK’s argument that it joined hands with the BJP because Prime Minister Vajpayee had brushed aside AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa’s demand that the DMK government in Tamil Nadu be dismissed, a DMK leader said.

T.S. Subramanian

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