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The Rediff Special/ Shobha Warrier in Chennai
Vaiko's new friends
March 06, 2006
The expected has happened. That Vaiko and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam would move away from the Democratic Progressive Alliance, more appropriately from the DMK, was expected even before the campaign for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections began. Even before the 'two brothers' (Karunanidhi and Vaiko) embraced each other.
It all began with the way Sun TV 'blacklisted' Vaiko from the day he was released from jail after his incarceration under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act, and set out on a padayatra in the state. So, it came as no surprise to anyone when Vaiko finally clinched an alliance with the ruling All India Anna DMK headed by J Jayalalithaa.
But some questions remain unanswered: how can Vaiko be friends with the person who had him detained indefinitely under POTA till a court order released him out after 500 days? How can Vaiko be on the same platform with the person whom he once called a fascist?
Politicians always use the most abused explanation -- there are no permanent friends or foes in politics -- but in the case of Vaiko and his party joining hands with Jayalalithaa, there is much more to it than 'foes becoming friends'.
To find out how these two sworn enemies became friends on the eve of the assembly election, we have to go back a little. It is not only with the AIADMK but also with the DMK that Vaiko's relationship has seen a lot of variations, changing with each election.
Vaiko was expelled from the DMK by his 'Anna' or big brother Karunanidhi in 1994 when he questioned Karunanidhi about favouring dynastic politics, when the latter made his son, M K Stalin, the second most important man in the party. Vaiko alias V Gopalasamy was till then the second most powerful man in the DMK and the fieriest speaker in Tamil Nadu.
Vaiko left the DMK to start his own outfit, the MDMK. In 1996, his party forged an alliance with the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Janata Dal and fought against both the DMK alliance and AIADMK in the assembly elections, but lost miserably. In fact, he himself contested Vilathikulam assembly segment and Sivakasi parliamentary constituency and lost both.
In 1998, he allied with the AIADMK and BJP combine to fight the parliamentary elections. But when Jayalalithaa brought down the Vajpayee government, the BJP joined hands with the DMK in Tamil Nadu. That was when Vaiko and his MDMK had to come back to ally with his parent party, the DMK.
Both Karunanidhi and Vaiko buried the hatchet (at least superficially) and decided to be a part of the National Democratic Alliance. The grouping won 26 out of 39 Lok Sabha seats in 1999. The MDMK had 4 MPs, DMK 12 and AIADMK 10 in Parliament.
In the 2001 Tamil Nadu assembly election, Vaiko opted to fight the election on his own. The MDMK fought in 211 seats independently but failed to win a single one. The AIADMK came back to power with a thumping majority, winning 132 seats out of the 140 seats it contested, in a house of 234.
The battle between Jayalalithaa and Vaiko had always been on the contentious issue of support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In 2002, soon after the NDA passed POTA in the Lok Sabha, Jayalalithaa arrested Vaiko and imprisoned him, citing his inflammatory speeches in support of the Tamil Tigers. His relationship with the BJP soured when the Vajpayee government did not prevent Jayalalithaa from arresting him or helping him get out of jail.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha election, angry at the way Vaiko was allowed to be arrested, the MDMK severed its relations with the NDA. The DMK also left the NDA and joined hands with the Congress. Once again, the DMK and the MDMK were in the same camp; the only difference was that instead of the BJP, the Congress was their ally this time, and the umbrella was not the NDA but the United Progressive Alliance.
By now, Karunanidhi had become quite sick and was unable to travel all over Tamil Nadu to campaign for the UPA candidates, and the mantle fell on Vaiko, Karunanidhi's 'younger brother.' Vaiko and his MDMK did not demur even though they were allotted fewer seats than the Pattali Makkal Katchi -- 4 vis-à-vis the 5 allotted to the latter.
Vaiko, who was fresh out of jail and had undertaken a padayatra throughout Tamil Nadu, was at his fiery best. The magnetic power of Vaiko was quite evident at all election meetings where people gathered in very large numbers to listen to him. His meetings attracted more people than what Karunanidhi's or Jayalalithaa's could.
It is no exaggeration to say that Vaiko single-handedly campaigned for all UPA candidates and helped the UPA sweep the election. But the way he was treated by the DMK's mouthpiece, Sun TV, showed some ambivalence in the party's attitude to him. His meetings were totally blacked out. Sun TV had earlier refused to even acknowledge the successful padayatra Vaiko undertook soon after his release from jail; they also refused to see the thousands and thousands who had gathered at his election meetings. Even when he campaigned for the DMK's Dayanidhi Maran, his part was mostly ignored.
In the face of all this, Vaiko's response was quite dignified, choosing to remain silent about the shabby treatment meted out to him. But his party cadres were furious. Under pressure from his party men, when the 2006 assembly elections approached, Vaiko said this time round his party expected 'honourable representation.' But nothing was forthcoming from the DMK chief.
Sensing Vaiko's discomfiture and Karunanidhi's indifferent attitude, the AIADMK started sending feelers to Vaiko well in advance. At a public meeting, the former speaker of the assembly Kalimuthu openly invited Vaiko to join hands with the AIADMK. But Vaiko did not respond.
When he met Karunanidhi on January 26, Vaiko said Karunanidhi promised him 25 seats. But when Vaiko met Karunanidhi on February 20, the DMK leader said he had never given any promise and asked Vaiko to reduce his demand.
On February 27, when Vaiko called Karunanidhi, he was asked to wait for a day.
On the 28th, DMK leader Arcot Veerasamy met Vaiko and offered him 21 seats but Vaiko said he was 'completely disappointed' by this, and asked for at least 23 seats.
According to the MDMK leader, as he was preparing his speech for the DMK's Trichy convention, Karunanidhi announced that only 22 seats could be given to the MDMK, and it was for them to take it or leave it. 'The MDMK came under fire at the DMK general council and many openly told the high command that the MDMK should be shown the door,' Vaiko said later.
With the 'take it or leave it' attitude of the DMK on one side, and 'we welcome you with open arms' attitude of the AIADMK on the other, Vaiko had to take the toughest decision of his career. He decided to leave the DPA and join hands with the woman who had put him in jail.
When both Vaiko and Jayalalithaa met the press at her Poes Garden residence on Saturday, Jayalalithaa said, 'I don't believe in dwelling on the past. We don't believe in returning to the past. We are looking only at the future, which will be glorious for both the AIADMK and the MDMK.'
Reacting to the news of the MDMK crossing over, DMK cadres pulled down Vaiko's cutouts in Trichy and set them on fire, called him a betrayer and an opportunist. But it is known to everyone that the reason behind the MDMK joining hands with the AIADMK was the DMK itself. The DMK treated Vaiko shabbily, made him feel unwanted and pushed him against a wall.
It is also well known that at the personal level, Vaiko would have borne the insults and carried on with the 21 seats offered to him by the DMK but the MDMK cadres were quite adamant that he join hands with the AIADMK. So, it was not only the 35 seats offered by the AIADMK that finally clinched the alliance but the culmination of so many events that had been happening in the last few years, and the desire of his party men.
It is interesting to note that Jayalalithaa, one of the fiercest critics of the LTTE, has now joined hands with two of the most loyal supporters of the LTTE, Vaiko of the MDMK and Thirumalvalavan of the Dalit Panthers of India.
PS: Now that the AIADMK and the MDMK are friends, the MDMK should first delete this paragraph from its web site: 'He (Vaiko) was a bitter critic of the AIADMK government of Jayalalithaa. The MDMK leader was the first political leader to declare that if voted to power, his government would seize the properties and assets of the AIADMK chief minister and other ministers.'
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