For the moment it suits the DMK to hang with the Congress, for all the irritants in their relationship. But the dilemmas for the Congress are no less than for the DMK, says Neerja Chowdhury.
By ordering the arrest of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi and daughter of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, the CBI special court has signalled that no one is above the law. But for a cornered DMK patriarch, the decision could not have come at a worse time, when the party, routed in recent assembly elections, is left with few cards up its sleeve.
Since all the others chargesheeted in the 2G spectrum scam are behind bars, and they include former Telecom Minister A Raja, Shahid Balwa of DB Realty, his brother and half a dozen corporate honchos, bail for Kanimozhi had looked difficult.
Her lawyer Ram Jethmalani, however, had made an impressive and emotional plea, with all the histrionics he is capable of, that his client was being penalised for being Karunanidhi's daughter, that she was a woman, that she had nothing to do with the day-to-day functioning of Kalaignar TV to which Rs 200 crore was paid. He tried to distance her-- and the DMK-- from Raja, who he said could be allegedly culpable for conspiracy but not her.
Curiously, the Delhi court had deferred the bail plea of Kanimozhi first to May 14, a day after the outcome of the state assembly polls was due, creating the popular impression that it was playing safe. Again, on May 14, when the rout of the DMK was apparent, it decided to reserve its judgment till May 20, probably to allow the dust to settle down. The poll outcome, which dethroned Karunanidhi's government, showed there had been seething anger against corruption and family rule in Tamil Nadu, which gave J Jayalalithaa victory in a whopping 5/6th of the seats.
Even if the DMK had emerged victorious in Tamil Nadu, it would have been difficult for the court to grant Kanimozhi bail because it would have been seen to have been done under political pressure. The DMK might have hoped that a victory might improve its ability to manoeuvre and enable it, over time, to soften the blow against its leaders, including Kanimozhi.
The fact of the matter is that the CBI is now functioning under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court in the 2G matter and the apex court is under the leadership of someone like Chief Justice S H Kapadia.
When Kanimozhi was chargesheeted, Karunanidhi was reportedly very upset but he was dissuaded by his sons M K Stalin and M K Azhagiri and grandnephew Dayanidhi Maran from taking an extreme step till the poll results were known.
Will the DMK withdraw support to the UPA now that Kanimozhi is arrested? This too is not going to be easy. The party will not want to risk being out of power in Delhi and in Chennai. It will not want to break with the ruling party and invite a hostile Centre, with serious graft cases going on against its important functionaries.
Going by her past record, Jayalalithaa will hardly leave Karunanidhi, his family members, or his party colleagues in peace. The Karunanidhi family, therefore, will need all the friends they can mobilise. At this stage, the Bharatiya Janata Party too will not come to their rescue, enmeshed as the DMK members are in scams, and the BJP has been in the forefront of the campaign to highlight their misdeeds. For the moment it suits the DMK to hang with the Congress, for all the irritants in their relationship.
The Congress may in time want to distance itself from the DMK, which has been shunned by the people in such a decisive manner. The process of distancing had already started even before the elections. When Karunanidhi had come to Delhi last time, party president Sonia Gandhi had reportedly kept him waiting and changed the time of the appointment several times. Rahul Gandhi had also given the then chief minister a wide berth when he visited Tamil Nadu on several occasions. But the Congress may not delink from the DMK immediately.
For a start, the DMK has 18 Lok Sabha seats, the AIADMK has only nine, and cannot compensate for its numbers. When Sonia Gandhi made her congratulatory phone call to Jayalalithaa, it was seen more as an icebreaker in a relationship which was has not been an easy one.
If the Congress dumps the DMK, it is more likely to be after the 2012 polls in UP. For the party will be forced to rely, more actively, on other parties like the Samajwadi Party -- or the BSP, though this seems remote now that Rahul Gandhi has taken on Mayawati so frontally over the police atrocities against farmers in Bhatta Parsaul. These parties will naturally demand their pound of flesh.
This will affect the Congress' go-it-alone policy for revival in UP, crafted by Rahul Gandhi, which had paid it dividends in the 2009 general elections. The UP elections are expected to be a watershed for the Congress and will determine its prospects in 2014 general elections. It goes without saying that they will have a bearing on the presidential elections due in mid-2012 and indeed on Rahul Gandhi's future. Therefore the dilemmas for the Congress are no less than for the DMK.