Tuesday, Nov 25, 2003
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By Harish Khare
The Prime Minister had to prove that he commanded majority support in the Lok Sabha even after Jayalalithaa had withdrawn the support of her 17 MPs. The DMK, which was part of a "third front" (in Opposition to the NDA), was faced with a crucial choice. The compulsions of Tamil Nadu politics dictated that the DMK join hands with those forces that were being opposed by the AIADMK.
It was an excruciatingly painful task: how to switch sides without being a corny opportunist. It was left to Maran to explain why his party which till the other day was committed to a "secular" formation was now joining hands with the "communal" BJP-led front.
First, Maran spelt out what kind of collective and responsible chemistry was needed among allies and partners because "I am a firm believer that in a federal country of continental proportions like India, a coalition Government is the best unifying factor". Then, in one inspired moment, he raised the debate to a new height when he told the countrywide televised audience: "People give power to politicians so that they may use it for the national interest. That is how the DMK exercises its powers in a responsible way. We never used to blackmail anybody when we were more than 25 members..."
As Maran saw it, the Vajpayee Government found itself confronted with a precipitous crisis because it refused to give in to "unreasonable, illegal and unconstitutional demands, which cannot be agreed to by any democratic government which respects the rule of law and judiciary."
Nor would Maran allow hecklers from the "secular" benches to slow him down. He reminded them, particularly the Left, that had his advice for a closer working relationship between the United Front and the Congress (during the UF regimes) been accepted, "things would have been different and history would have been different".
Maran's plea for reasonableness and fair play could not save the Vajpayee Government. It is a supreme irony that while his party became a staunch ally and a decent coalition partner in the post-1999 NDA Government, the BJP was perceived to be moving towards the AIADMK at the time of his death.
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