For quite a while now, the DMK resembles a tamed tiger – it wants to growl to its heart’s content, but cannot go beyond a muted mew.
The party that once commanded so much clout within the UPA-II, has reduced itself to a sad shadow of itself in the last two years. And every time it makes a noise on any issue of critical importance, be it the Sri Lankan Tamils or the fuel price rise, it ends up making a pretense of protest.
The outcome of the party’s working committee meeting on Monday, is yet another example of how weak-kneed it gets when it is about to start ranting against the Centre for policies that have evoked widespread public protest.
Or, is it simply the way it is sulking, even while trying to safeguard itself over the Congress’s inability to help its recovery from the mighty 2G fall? Either way, it betrays the party’s deeply painful helplessness.
The highlights of the working committee meeting are its resolutions on FDI in retail and its demand for a 2G review petition in the Supreme Court. Of course, it also resolved to go the UN with its TESO (Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation) resolutions.
At the meeting, the DMK reportedly said that it would support a resolution against the FDI in retail if the Opposition proposes one. The DMK making its political disagreement on FDI is understandable as an example of democracy of opinion within a ruling coalition, but joining hands with the Opposition to make a point sounds strange and Mamata-esque. That too on a decision that the Congress is willing to go down fighting.
The shrewd political strategist and survivor that he is, Karunanidhi’s deft double-speak, that seeks to satisfy both popular sentiments and its own political expedience, is not new.
“Allowing FDI in multi-brand retail in the name of economic reforms will spell doom for developing countries like India,” the party said expressing its intent in supporting an opposition resolution on the issue.
In the same breath, Karunanidhi said, according to the Hindu, that “the differences can be sorted out through talks. So, differences will not affect our relationship with Congress.”
So, what is the end result? Nothing, other than some empty noise. This is how what begins as an attempt to growl, ends up as a mew.
Reportedly there was considerable pressure from some influential leaders within the party to snap ties with the Congress at the meeting. Whether it was genuine or stage-managed, the party leadership knows that leaving the Congress camp will be suicidal.
Electorally, the party is weak and it has not been able to mount credible campaigns against the state government on popular issues such as price rise, power cuts and governance deficiencies even after a year of the AIADMK rule. The chances of it aligning with the BJP are almost non-existent and joining a Third Front, if ever happens, will be far worse than staying in the UPA camp. Being with the UPA will protect its interests, at least till 2014. Therefore, sulking is a safer option.
DMK is still smarting under the 2G slight, particularly with Kanimozhi reportedly determined to clear her name in the case. Harping on the Supreme Court’s observation on the presidential review that auction was not the only route for allotting natural resources, the party now wants the Centre to file a review petition on 2G spectrum allocation as well.
The Centre had filed a review petition against the cancellation of 122 licenses, but withdrew it later, perhaps fearing political backlash, when it asked for a presidential review. Since the cancellation of licenses remained untouched by the court, and it has only spoken about the policy of allotting natural resources (auction versus other forms of allotment), there is no change in the circumstances that will justify a new review petition by the Centre. The Congress is unlikely to pay heed to the DMK’s demand.
The party’s stand on Kudankulam, which appeared to have gained some popular support in the coastal belt close to the nuclear plant, also sounded double-sided. It batted for nuclear energy and the plant, but chose to criticise the government for not taking the people into confidence. With the public and political opinion clearly polarised on the issue, the DMK was proposing a non-feasible middle path.
That the DMK feels vulnerable in standing up to the Congress has been visible for a long while now – its inability to arm-twist the Centre to act decisively on the issue of Sri Lanka, even while lamenting on the conditions of the island’s Tamils, during or after the war, is a clear example. Whether in holding the Sri Lankan government responsible for its alleged war excesses, or training of Lankan defence personnel in India, Karunanidhi has not been able to perform the bewitching brinkmanship that he was once capable of.
Unfortunately, the once formidable UPA-ally has nobody but itself to blame for its weak-kneed stand.