The DMK is in desperate need of allies
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
Now that the Telugu Desam Party and the National Conference,
two of the Bharatiya Janata Party's long-standing national allies, have formally joined
the company of one-time friend Akali Dal in the BJP alliance at the Centre,
what's the ruling DMK doing in what's
essentially a pro-Congress United Front? 'The soul is
willing, but the body doesn't co-operate' in the DMK joining
the BJP and Co, according to informed sources.
"The DMK is caught between the devil and the deep sea, and
had not provided for the rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam walking away with the BJP
alliance in style," says this source. "Nor is it any
more sure of the Tamil Maanila Congress's intentions
to join hands with the parent Congress party.
But it is becoming increasingly clear to the DMK that without
an ally of some kind, it cannot hope to win anymore."
Though the BJP and the DMK are known to have maintained contacts
during the run-up to the polls, and even thereafter, the continuance
of the AIADMK with its 27 alliance MPs in the BJP combine, and
their participation in the Vajpayee government have both made
any talks between the two untenable now, says this source. "A
mercurial AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha will not like it a bit
if she came to know of any such move."
Conversely, the sources are clear that there is little that the
Vajpayee government could do to meet the AIADMK's purported demand
for the dismissal of the DMK government in the state. "The
law, as laid down by the Supreme court in the S R Bommai case is
very clear, and an active President like K R Narayanan will
also like none of it."
If anything, says this source, the 'silent majority' that the
BJP-led government has acquired in the Lok Sabha, thanks mainly
to the TDP and the NC, will force the DMK government
to 'behave, or perish'. "It cannot ignore the calls of duty anymore
as it did before the Coimbatore blasts. And both the TDP and
the NC have proved that their own immediate demands
are more important to them, than the DMK."
Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has already dubbed the TDP's decision
to dissociate itself from the UF as 'unfortunate'.
But other sources claim that there is 'no truth whatsoever' in
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's claim
that his party was not consulted by the UF leadership. "If
anything, he was the one who had been negotiating privately with
the BJP all along, and is now using the Lok Sabha Speaker's election
to walk out in the open," says the source.
According to this source, there was no truth in Naidu's 'overnight
claim' that the UF had been formed to fight the Congress. "True,
the UF was to strike an equi-distance between the Congress
and the BJP, but even in 1996, with Naidu's concurrence and under
his leadership, the United Front had decided to treat the BJP
as its enemy number: one, and the Congress as a lesser evil
Even this source, however, concedes that Naidu's compulsions were
'genuine and localised', born out of his fear of losing his traditional
non-Congress votebank completely to the BJP. "But to be fair
to him, Naidu did decline the offer to be made United Front
prime minister, possibly with Congress support. Maybe he
knew no coalition prime minister would survive for long, not
when you are a minor partner, and did not want to lose his grip
over the state."
That being the case, sources say, the DMK too cannot be faulted
if it chose its own environs to strike a political course that
is most suited for it under the circumstances. "The DMK's
sympathies are with the BJP, yes, but can the party count on joining
the alliance at the Centre, as long as the AIADMK is in a position
to dictate terms? Alternatively, it can go with the Congress
in the company of the TMC, but even there the decision lies with
Sonia Gandhi, and not entirely with Karunanidhi."
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