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Southern States - Tamil Nadu Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

An alliance-saving clarification

By R. K. Radhakrishnan

CHENNAI Aug. 5. With his prompt explanation and assertion in Parliament on the Ayodhya temple issue, the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has effectively prevented his National Democratic Alliance allies, notably the DMK, from trying to distance themselves from the BJP and the NDA over this controversy.

The DMK president, M. Karunanidhi, today said Mr.Vajpayee's explanation was also his party's stand. (The Prime Minister had stated a solution to the temple issue could be found only through court or by negotiations between the parties to the dispute).

Leaders of the DMK point out that after the Prime Minister's rhetoric at the funeral of Ramchandradas Paramhans, chairman of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, it was only Mr. Karunanidhi who asked for a clarification. In what was seen as a bid by the "secular DMK" to react swiftly to Mr. Vajpayee's declaration, the party leaders pointed out that the DMK did not go overboard as did the Opposition and instead asked the Prime Minister to explain his stance. This, they argue, was in keeping with the "coalition dharma."

Mr. Vajpayee's statement and clarification could not have come at a better time for the alliance. The DMK and the BJP have been slowly but steadily moving away from each other over a period of time. Both the parties have blamed each other for the break-up of the NDA at the State level.

The DMK's discomfiture with the BJP began when some of its top State-level leaders took part in the inauguration of the AIADMK Government's `Annadhanam' scheme in March 2002. The State BJP has since maintained that it will support all positive schemes of the AIADMK Government and that it will not blindly oppose the ruling party here, merely to please the DMK.

The DMK response to each of the BJP's moves ranged from Mr. Karunanidhi announcing severing of ties at the State level last year to his declaring in June last that the alliance for the next Lok Sabha elections would not be "automatic" and that it would have to be discussed by the party's policy bodies before a decision was taken.

But till the March 2003 fast programme, protesting the detention of the MDMK general secretary, Vaiko, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the DMK had shied away from directly attacking the BJP's national leadership. Its demand for scrapping of the POTA was considered the first direct and open attack. After a brief lull, came the next offensive at a public meeting here last month, organised again to protest the prolonged incarceration of Mr. Vaiko. This a few hours after the BJP president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, and the national secretary, L. Ganesan, had called on Mr. Karunanidhi at the DMK headquarters.

While the DMK would like to remain with the NDA for now, the BJP wants to keep the coalition intact for the polls. This because the BJP national leadership views the DMK as a reliable partner, even if the State unit prefers an alliance with the AIADMK.

Right now, Mr. Karunanidhi is involved in gauging the party's strength across the State, concentrating on the areas where it has traditionally done well. Failing health has often kept the leader confined to Chennai and he wants to use the opportunity presented by the recently-announced fund collection drive to assess the party strength in crucial districts.

Mr. Karunanidhi travels to Thanjavur on August 16 to begin his fund-collection tour. He comes back to Chennai for an August 19 meeting, before proceeding to Tirunelveli (August 23), Paramakudi (August 24) and Madurai (August 25). He meets functionaries at Tiruvannamalai (August 31), Tirupur (September 6) and Salem (September 7), before winding up the drive at a Villupuram district conference on September 20 and 21.

The DMK says there is no need for it to talk of alliances or electoral understandings now. These can wait until the polls are announced. In any case, the leadership has always held that alliances are only for elections. The DMK does not want to quit the alliance on flimsy grounds and will continue to look for opportunities to assert its "secular credentials".

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