The tough question before the DMK and its leader MK Stalin now is, what should their response be if sounded out for an alliance by the BJP for or after the next parliamentary polls, says N Sathiya Moorthy.
It is celebration time for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, but the saddest part is that party chief, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, who has been bed-ridden, may not be able to participate in the revelry following the CBI court dismissing the 2G scam case against his daughter Kanimozhi and party colleague and then telecom minister A Raja.
As chief minister, veteran politician, responsible party chief and an affectionate father, Karunanidhi donned all the caps with as much elan and composure as was possible under the circumstances. Yet, that could not stop him from visiting Kanimozhi in Tihar jail more than once -- taking on the political criticism and media opprobrium attending as much on the probity and propriety of his action as on the 2-G scam case that was unfolding all the same.
Now, when CBI court judge O P Saini has acquitted them all after nine long years, the nonagenarian leader is bed-ridden and is said to suffer from memory loss, with the result he may not even know that the dirt thrown at Kanimozhi and Raja, and through them at him and the party, has all been wiped clean.
Son M K Stalin, now working president of the party, put it aptly while welcoming the verdict and condemned “all those” who had foisted what other party leaders said then, and now, was a ‘trumped up’ case, when he asked the media to show the same grit in taking to the people about the acquittal story with the same vehemence they had taken the scam story (and the various phases of the court cases, arrest and bail, etc).
The trial court verdict raises more questions than the 3-line judgment. To start with, will the CBI and/or ED go in appeal, and if so against whom all? Despite the ED announcing it will and the CBI saying it will wait for the detailed order, it will take more time for these agencies and their law officers to study the verdict and advise accordingly, as at the end of the day, it is a ‘political decision’ of sorts for the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take.
On the one hand, the party that had riled the Congress-led UPA, of which the DMK was a ministerial partner, and more so Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally, would have a lot to explain.
Already, second and third-line DMK leaders appearing on social media and television have started reminding the people about the famous/infamous report of then CAG Vinod Rai, fixing what came to be dubbed the ‘notional loss’ to the exchequer, at an astronomically high Rs 1.86-lakh crores. They have also begun revisiting the CBI probe to ask how this loss came to be reduced to Rs 30,000 crore first and later to Rs 10,000 crore later.
“Does it mean that now that all the accused have been acquitted, there was no loss at all?” is the unasked question, and if the entire sum and story was cooked up for political reasons. “If so, why, for whom and by whom?” they have begun asking.
Leaving aside second-line DMK leaders, some alliance leaders like VCK’s Thol Thirumavalavan, among others, have sought investigations and cases against all those involved in ‘foisting’ the case, holding the accused in jail without bail, all in a case where there possibly was no evidence at any point in time, only because of which judge Saini could dismiss the prosecution argument, outright -- at least in the ‘order’ part of his judgment.
This apart, the Congress Opposition, or whatever remains of the party in Parliament, but more enthusiastic after the Gujarat assembly poll results, could go to town, tom-tomming that all the other court-ordered or court-supervised cases on coal allocation and the like too were all ‘foisted’ and politically-motivated.
Considering that even without it, no same issue has won or lost more than one election in this nation, other than those directly affecting the voter like price rice, food scarcity and unemployment, one may have to wait and watch the political fall-out of the day’s verdict.
Nearer home in Tamil Nadu, the DMK cadres are celebrating. It has boosted their morale while working on the day’s controversial polling in the even more controversial second R K Nagar by-election in Chennai, after the seat once held by Chief Minister Jayalalitha fell vacant following her death on December 5, 2016.
Not that anyone expected the Delhi court verdict to alter the course of polling, or the results one way or the other, but already party second-line leaders and cadres across the state are talking about the verdict refurbishing the DMK’s image, which could have done with such a make-over in what is becoming a long run-up to the assembly polls in 2021, preceded by the Lok Sabha elections in May 2019.
Eyebrows were caused to be raised when, a few weeks ago, PM Modi made an unscheduled visit to call on ailing Karunanidhi, whose condition was however known to be stable for months then, and since, too. Though everyone involved described it as a ‘courtesy call’, something the PM had not extended to the ailing Jayalalithaa through her 75-day-long hospitalisation, there was speculation that the BJP was seeking to warm up to the DMK and Stalin after the party’s purported bid to prop up a post-Jaya AIADMK under its overall care and direction had failed miserably.
For the DMK and Stalin, the verdict is a political victory. Any reversal, and conviction/sentencing of party leaders, instead, could have embarrassed both the DMK and Congress ally at the national level, post-Gujarat, when everyone was expected to warm up to the new Rahul Gandhi leadership of anti-BJP forces at regional and national levels.
BJP’s Subramanian Swamy, the original initiator of the investigations and court cases in the 2-G scam as against the DMK’s political rival Jayalalithaa on other occasions, was prompt in tweeting that the Centre could prove its sincerity in the matter only if it filed a quick appeal against the day’s acquittal.
That leaves a tough question before the DMK and Stalin, as to what should be their response if sounded out for a BJP alliance for or after the next parliamentary polls, the Delhi verdict having erased all shades of dirt sticking to the DMK.
The win-win lose-lose performance in PM Modi’s native Gujarat, that too after all his great campaign efforts, may have only made decisions of the kind difficult, not only for the DMK in Tamil Nadu, but possibly for other similarly-placed regional parties elsewhere in the country, too.
N Sathiya Moorthy, veteran journalist and political analyst, is director, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter.