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|July 15, 1998||
DMK-MDMK marriage put on holdN Sathiya Moorthy in Chennai
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's decision to continue to support the BJP-led government at the Centre appears to have put the brakes, for now, on moves to bring the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its prodigal progeny, the rival Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, together.
However, sources within both parties indicate that the two parties are yet keeping all options open.
The expectation in both camps seems to be that the AIADMK will, sooner or later, sever ties with the BJP. And that this in turn could be the catalyst for a coming together of the DMK and the MDMK.
Significantly, MDMK supremo V Gopalaswamy (Vaiko, in Tamil polity) was slated to appear in public with DMK chief and state Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi ('MuKa') at the official birth centenary celebrations of the former chief minister, the late Kumaraswamy Raja, at Sivakasi on July 8.
Vaiko represents Sivakasi, and that was the rationale given for the joint appearance of the two former foes (old-timers will recall that at the time of the split, Karunanidhi had accused Vaiko of plotting, with the LTTE, to bump him off).
Following the BJP-AIADMK patch-up, Vaiko preferred to opt out of the function.
MDMK leaders warn, however, that the party will not countenance a total merger with the DMK, as and when. "We are talking of an alliance, not merger," says a senior leader of the former party. "We will continue to maintain our separate identity, while aligning with the DMK for electoral purposes."
The MDMK, singularly unsuccessful when it attempted to take on the DMK on its own, gained good ground in the February general election thanks to its coming under the BJP-AIADMK umbrella. However, relations between the MDMK and the AIADMK have soured in recent times, as indicated by Vaiko taking a line independent of AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha on the latter's demand for the dismissal of the Tamil Nadu government.
More significantly, Vaiko has made it clear that if push comes to shove, he would prefer the BJP to the AIADMK as a political ally.
"Though ours was a principled stand on Article 356, the DMK cadres have not forgotten our gesture," says the MDMK leader.
Asked whether an alliance between the DMK and MDMK would be swallowed by the electorate, the party leader said, "There has never been any ideological difference between the two parties -- what precipitated the 1993 split was a personality clash between Vaiko and MuKa.
"If we could work with the AIADMK, and if the Tamil Maanila Congress can consider an alliance with the Congress, then why can't we work with the DMK?" the leader argues. "After all, to survive politically, you have to be pragmatic."
Is it that simple? Old-timers will recall that at the time of the split, Vaiko had loudly alleged nepotism and favouritism within the DMK leadership. "Yes, that is true," says the leader, "but of late, Karunanidhi's attitude has changed considerably, I don't think that particular problem exists any longer."
For example? None of the five DMK nominees for the recent Rajya Sabha election, the MDMK leader points out, could be classed as being close to Karunanidhi's family. "All five nominees were chosen not for their loyalty to Karunanidhi, but for their continued loyalty to the party and its principles," is the MDMK leader's assessment.
A similar spirit appears to pervade the DMK as well. "If we could think in terms of aligning ourselves with the Congress, which was the source of most of our political troubles over the last 20 years, why then can't we think of the MDMK as an alliance partner?" demands a source close to the DMK senior leadership.
The ruling party's thinking is that future elections in the state could see a three-cornered contest. And in such an eventuality, a DMK-MDMK alliance could win hands down, with or without the BJP. "We won the 1989 assembly election while we were united. The recent Lok Sabha election, in contrast, taught us a few lessons in coalition politics," the source adds, referring to the tough TMC posture in admitting new partners and sharing its seats, which he claimed "was a contributing factor in our defeat."
Of course, it is not as if the pitfalls are not obvious to both groups. "We will have to convince our respective cadres and our voters, before whom we have shamelessly called each other names," says the MDMK leader. "More importantly, the external political atmosphere too should be conducive for a realignment of forces."
The DMK has, however, to first decide on the future of its ties with the TMC. Together, the two parties are intent on enlarging their combine by including other United Front partners. While the TMC is keen on taking the DMK into the Congress camp, party president Sonia Gandhi is yet to respond even to the 'coordination' offer made by the former.
If an alliance of some sort with the Congress does not materialise, the DMK might be driven into the BJP camp -- and that in turn would force a severance of ties with the TMC.
The BJP logic runs thus: A BJP-DMK tie-up (with the MDMK participating) will ensure that the AIADMK and the Congress come closer to each other. The TMC cannot accept the latter, and may become unwanted by the former. Thus, the TMC will at best head a weak, uninspiring third front. And in a polarised electoral atmosphere, anti-AIADMK voters of the TMC will veer towards the BJP-DMK-MDMK alliance.
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