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tamil nadu: Coalition Dharma at its brazen worst - BR Haran

tamil nadu: Coalition Dharma at its brazen worst - BR Haran: "
mar 13th, 2011 CE

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Date: Sat, Mar 12, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Subject: Coalition Dharma at its brazen worst - BR Haran


OPED | Saturday, March 12, 2011

Coalition dharma at its brazen worst
March 12, 2011 12:07:19 AM

B R Haran

Less than a month since Manmohan Singh justified the mollycoddling of scamster ministers in the name of “coalition compulsions”, Indians watched this week as “seat-sharing” talks ahead of elections in Chennai barely concealed the political adhesive of UPA-2: blackmail.

We have often heard that ‘coalition dharma’ demands flexibility on the part of the principals. Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shamelessly admitted on national television that self-preservation is the highest goal of governance, not delivering the nation from corruption, poverty and inflation. Alliance partners, even if they are criminal enterprises masquerading as political parties, should be mollycoddled — the aam admi be damned.

This week, we Indians saw, how through little exercises in deceit this dharma plays out. The setting, as expected, was Tamil Nadu, where Singh’s party, the Congress, was seen doing a nice tango with its rogue partner, the DMK, for the benefit of an ignoramus national media.

Political analysts shed much perspiration ‘analysing’ the political equivalent of a fixed cricket match. Changing alliance arithmetic, prolonging seat-sharing talks, lack of trust amongst allies, factional feuds within parties and disgruntlement among the cadres, etc., have never been so brazen. For the first time in the history of Tamil Nadu both the major Dravidian parties showed their vulnerabilities vis-a-vis a party from the north. But, by end-week, it was all hunky dory again.

The 2G spectrum scam has led scamsters DMK and Congress to break their heads over resolving the sticky situation created by the mother of all thefts. With Assembly polls round the corner, the DMK is in a state of high anxiety, as unlike the Congress which has little by way of investment in the state, Tamil Nadu is the universe for Karunanidhi and his ilk. While the Congress could afford to occupy the moral high ground on the issue just because the investigating agencies are yet to knock on its doors, the DMK felt betrayed because it perceived its bigger ally had not done enough to save its leaders including the family members of supremo
M Karunanidhi.

With the Assembly election nearing, the Congress took full advantage of the issue and started squeezing the DMK to extract its own pound of flesh. The sudden increase of pace in the CBI’s probe, the sacking and subsequent arrest of Telecom Minister A Raja, and the anticipated interrogation of Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi and other women of the household put Karunanidhi on the back foot. The fact that he could not prevent the CBI from raiding his own TV channel’s office was weighing on his mind. This made him focus on the prevention of the interrogation of his wives and the possible arrest of his daughter, at least until the election.

Despite the Congress having an advantage over DMK as far as the 2G probe was concerned, Karuna played his cards quite well by threatening to withdraw from the Union government, thereby rocking the seven-year relationship which was mutually ‘beneficial’. Though bickering over seat-sharing was projected as the reason for the mess, the real cause was the failure of the two parties to arrive at an understanding over the 2G probe. This could be ascertained by two ‘giveaways’. The first was by Karunanidhi, through a statement that “hiccups” in seat-sharing was one of the reasons, and the other was by Pranab Mukherjee, who said, “We know how to create problems; we know how to solve them too”.

So, the drama on seat sharing proceeded while the actual scenes happened behind the screens at the Capital. Reliable sources say that the DMK had categorically told the Congress leadership that it cannot claim a moral high ground on the spectrum scam and arm-twist the DMK because if the latter sank, it could pull down the grand old party with it. It was amusing to follow the mainstream media peddling the theory that that Sonia ‘slammed’ DMK leaders, or that Sonia ‘snubs’ Karuna and she upheld the ‘prestige of the Congress’. In reality nothing of the kind happened.

Tamil Nadu is not an important state for the Congress. At first it seemed that sacrificing its minor stake there for the sake of a peaceful time in Delhi was the raison d’être of the Congress’ operations in Chennai. So, in the present scenario, even if the AIADMK’s Jayalalithaa offers only 40 odd seats, the Congress is confident it could swing 25-30 of them. That is preferable to the DMK’s offer of 63, as aligning itself with the tainted party could hurt the Congress deeply.

On the other hand, Jayalalithaa is concerned for her health and her party’s financial condition. She is quite understandably mulling over the prospects of having the Congress on her side instead of spent forces like Vaiko’s MDMK and the Communists. Moreover, the disproportionate assets case has been a big headache for her. She is worried that the DMK-Congress combine might try to prevent her from contesting the election using their leverage with the Judiciary.

Even as the DMK-Congress talks were on, Jayalalithaa waited with bated breath, preparing to dump the Communists and Vaiko’s MDMK for the sake of a tie-up with the Congress. Smelling imminent power in Chennai and reflected glory in Delhi, she began entertaining dreams of victimising Karunanidhi and his family. Though the Congress has not responded to her overtures yet, the possibility of post-poll ties is not ruled out.

Karunanidhi is at the fag end of his career. Since 1996 he has made it a point to cosy up to whichever party is in power in Delhi. But he was powerless to prevent the arrest of Raja or stop the CBI probe. As elections neared he developed cold feet, and reading his precarious situation, the Congress tightened its grip. The move by Jayalalithaa to offer her support to the Congress in the event of its dumping the DMK came in handy for Sonia Gandhi’s emissaries in Chennai.

But by midweek, the old warhorse finally prevailed over the Congress and saved the alliance. Reportedly, the Congress has agreed to slow down the investigations, delay the interrogation of Karuna’s family members and ensure that Kanimozhi is not harassed. After all, Sonia Gandhi has her own interests to safeguard. As a step in that direction, the DoT has sent a notice to the telecom companies who were beneficiaries of the scam, giving them a 60-day breathing space. Citing this and a few other ‘made-up’ reasons the CBI might pray for adjournments in the Supreme Court leading to the protection of the DMK first family.

For the Tamilian on the street, the dynamics of the political track are all too transparent. This is alliance politics in its most disgusting form. The ordinary party cadre has lost all respect for their leaders. Money power is set to overwhelm politics on an unprecedented scale. The aam admi is hoping that the Election Commission would be sincere and effective.

-- The writer is a Chennai-based columnist