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The DMK overplayed its hand

May 25, 2009 14:49 IST

The predicament in which the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam finds itself is of its own making. Its supremo, M Karunanidhi, reputedly cool and calculating in making his moves, has apparently been outwitted by the Congress party which refused to budge from its lump-it-or-leave-it stand in regard to both the number and nature of the Cabinet berths it was willing to offer.

In effect, it has almost sent him packing back to Chennai with nothing to show for all the parading of his family members and some (like Messrs T R Baalu and A Raja) as claimants for as many ministries which all the television channels both in English and Hindi kept on describing as 'juicy'.

Some of them were openly harping on the 'bad reputation' and 'non-performance' of Baalu and Raja and how the prime minister was bent on not having them in his ministry at any cost. They even went so far as to mention repeatedly in their prime time commentaries that, in political circles in Delhi, the DMK was better known as Delhi Money for Karunanidhi!

That this was how the complexion of politics in Tamil Nadu was generally viewed must have been news to even those who had some links with Delhi. Of course, there were always whispers circulated in cupped palms about the unsavoury character of some aspects of politics in Tamil Nadu, but its being loudly proclaimed in TV channels watched by millions was certainly unexpected.

Comfortable tally

Whatever that is, from the time the results of the Lok Sabha election were in, it was clear that with its new found confidence made up of preponderant numbers, the Congress, in its dealings with its allies and others, is not going to be the same old diffident, submissive push-over that it was in the lean days of the first term of the United Progressive Alliance. The DMK, in particular, needed to be circumspect in making its demands, not only to avoid giving the impression of having its eye only on 'juicy' ministries, but also because it had a weak suit.

The number of votes it could deliver lost its significance when set against the comfortable tally in favour of the Congress and the UPA. At least for the foreseeable future, the DMK's presence is not going to be felt in the conduct of political affairs at the Centre. More importantly, the DMK itself suddenly finds itself vulnerable to threats of the withdrawal of support by the Congress from the minority government it has been running in Tamil Nadu since 2006. And thereby hangs a tale.

The Congress persons of Tamil Nadu have all this time been very bitter about their being kept at arms' length without being included as a coalition partner in the state government and held Karunanidhi personally responsible for their getting a short shrift from his party, although its government could not have lasted a day if the Congress had not been propping it up. It was even suggested in some Congress quarters that the DMK did not want to let in members of any other party on the secret of its techniques of milking the departments!

Raging furore

The resentment of the leaders of the Congress in Tamil Nadu at their exclusion was shared right up to the topmost levels of the party high command but all of them had to lie low and put up with the humiliation in view of the upper hand the DMK had till the recent election in keeping the UPA government afloat. The Congress mill, it would seem, grinds slowly but it grinds surely, and it has taken the first opportunity that came to it to rub its ally-behaving-like-adversary's nose on the ground.

In the midst of the raging furore involving the Congress and the DMK, its brighter side should not be overlooked. The fact that Dr.Manmohan Singh, with Sonia Gandhi by his side, has at long last decided to put his foot down and show to those seeking to push him around their place is something worthy of celebration. According to reliable sources, both the chairperson of the UPA and the prime minister were acting in unison in this, but far more than the duo, it is Rahul Gandhi who has emerged as the hero of the drama that is being played out.

He has been insistent right from the beginning that the game of ministry-making in the changed circumstances should be played by harking back to the value-system and political culture of the halcyon days of his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, and no quarter to be given to those who have perverted politics into a grab-as-grab-can and series of quid pro quos. The further information trickling from Delhi is that Rahul Gandhi is being buttressed in this by the young MPs who have found their voice and are determined to stand no nonsense in running the affairs of the country.

All that the people of India can say is: May their tribe increase!

B S Raghavan