Chennai: “Fill jail but no bail” has been the call by DMK chief M Karunanidhi and second-in-command MK Stalin to their cadres across the state.
Filling the jails is fine, since about 30 percent of the Tamil Nadu jails are empty, but for how long without bail? More importantly Will it come very close to the Presidential election on 19 July?
Leaving a gap of 15 days between the statewide “fill the jail” (not “jail bharo” in Tamil Nadu as the national media report) agitation and the Presidential election may not be safe for the DMK MLAs and MPs. Especially in the politically vitiated atmosphere of Tamil Nadu.
One never knows what charges some of them might face while filling the jail. Secondly, if they don’t seek bail, how will they come out on time to vote for Pranab?
With countless DMK leaders being jailed for long periods of time on criminal cases since Jayalalithaa came to power, keeping just a fortnight between the agitation and election isn’t the safest option. In fact, the present agitation is in protest against the detention of a former DMK minister Veerapandi Arumugham under the Goondas Act. Arumugam, who was already in jail in connection with a case of land grabbing, was about to get bail when the Goondas Act detention was slapped on him.
The DMK was belligerent initially, not only on filling the jails but also in not seeking bail. In fact, Stalin had asked for volunteers to fill the jails on the condition that they will not seek bail. But on Sunday, after hosting Pranab in the city, Karunanidhi seemed to have tempered the tone. He asked the party workers to be peaceful in their protest, perhaps not to invite cases that will lock them up for longer periods of time.
Although the DMK leadership hasn’t showed any hints of anxiety about the possible jail stay of its MLAs and MPs coming in the way of their voting for Pranab, reports indicate that Karunanidhi’s son and union minister MK Azhagiri, the other bigwig in the party apart from Stalin, will stay away from the agitation to avoid arrest. Apparently, he doesn’t want to take any risk by going to jail and not coming out before the election.
If other MLAs (only 23 though) and MPs (18 in Lok Sabha and seven in RS), follow Azhagiri’s plan, it will just be the cadres who fill the jails and will be yet another case of the DMK’s half-hearted bravado as in the case of Cauvery and the war against Sri Lankan Tamils.
In case the MLAs and MPs do go to jail, the only way for them to vote is by taking the court’s permission i.e. by seeking bail. This will demolish the “no bail” slogan of the party. Either way, it will be an interesting agitation and if the leaders lend their leadership only on paper and flyers as Azhagiri is proposing to do, it will be a unique spectacle.
Perhaps, Karunanidhi and the DMK haven’t given enough thought to this possibility when they decided on the ‘no bail’ part of the agitation, if the royal reception given to Pranab Mukherjee by the party is any indication.
The entire DMK leadership was in attendance, with the three 2G scam tainted leaders, A Raja, Kanimozhi and Dayanidhi Maran, occupying the front row seats at the reception in a five star hotel to felicitate Pranab.
Giving them company on the stage were Congress ministers P Chidambaram, GK Vasan and DMK leaders Stalin and Azhagiri along with patriarch Karunanidhi. The DMK in fact appeared more enthusiastic than the Congress to warming up to the future President.
There is also speculation that Karunanidhi chose to receive Pranab at his CIT colony residence, his second home in the city which is also the residence of Kanimozhi and her mother Rajathi Ammal, to ensure that she was around when the future President came home.
One has to wait and watch if the DMK will take the risk of sending its MLAs and MPs to jail and how Jayalalithaa will respond.
Had it been any another situation she would probably choose to defeat the DMK design to fill the jails and refuse to arrest the agitators. The police can just detain them in some marriage halls or open places and send them home by evening. But this time around, the DMK has presented her with an option that she might not refuse to use.