The DMK is on a sure path back to the UPA. It may not formally join the government for now, but it will surely support it from outside. Maybe later, if things calm down in TN, it may even join the it again. More importantly, it is now quite certain that the party will be part of UPA-3 if that chance arises.
Consider the following:
It is now clear what the DMK’s compulsions were in exiting the UPA-2. The politics in TN had gotten far more tumultuous than most of us outside of the state realized. It was a brilliant chess move that Jayalalitha had made, sensing correctly the opportunity the Sri Lanka vote in the UNHCR offered her party. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to deliver a body blow to the DMK. She moved stealthily; almost un-noticeable till the very end. And then all of a sudden, in a rapid leap, she went for the kill, escalating the issue sky high. I think the center was caught by surprise; I also think the DMK was caught by surprise.
The DMK was forced into its desperate decision to quit the UPA. Knowing fully well that the central government would not be able to go the whole hog on the issue, the party decided to turn that to its advantage. By quitting the government, it showed that its concern for the Tamilian people was far more than any quest or desire for power. Clearly, the move worked. Not only has the party managed to thwart the AIADMK’s move, it has probably scored one over its rival. After all, the AIADMK only made noise. The DMK actually proved its commitment by actually resigning and sacrificing power. I think in the minds of the public, that’s a bigger proof of commitment.
Jayalalitha has now been forced onto the backfoot. Not surprising then that she increased the temperature a little more by first demanding that the Sri Lankan cricketers not be allowed to play in Chennai, and then taunting Karunanidhi for not sacking them from his grand nephew Kalanithi Maran’s IPL team, the Sunrisers Hyderabad. This battle is far from over, and more turf grabbing can be expected in the coming days. Already, Jayalalitha has used her brutal majority in the TN assembly to pass a resolution demanding that India should insist on the UN intervening in Sri Lanka, unmindful of the reciprocal demand that Pakistan is sure to make with respect to J&K. In the heightened political climate now prevailing in TN, how and why should Jayalalitha bother about J&K. She gets elected by voters in her state, not those in the rest of the country.
How will the DMK respond? It is more than likely that its Hyderabad IPL team will drop its captain Sangakkara. It may also take up other routes – like asking its cadres to attack Sri Lankans in the state and elsewhere. This is a typical battle of egos – there is going to be no stoppage for at least some time.
The incidents show what intense compulsion the DMK faced in doing what it did. The decision to quit the UPA was nothing to do with the 2G scam, nor was it because of any disenchantment with the Congress as many in the media alleged. It was not a reflection of the Congress’s attitude towards its allies. The DMK never loved the Congress. It was a political necessity that made the party stick to the Congress, even after the party patriarch’s own daughter was hauled into the 2G cauldron. That necessity still continues; only it has been temporarily overtaken by the other necessity of countering Jayalalitha’s move.
Once the matter subsides, the DMK’s original necessities will re-emerge. The party is already keeping its doors open. From “we won’t have a pre-poll alliance with the Congress in 2014”, it has already moved to a much more nuanced position, even thanking the central government for sanctioning several infrastructure and social projects in the state. And before this, the party made it clear that it didn’t intend to topple the government. How could it? If early elections followed as a result of its actions, the DMK would be routed in its home state. Maybe a year later, the tide will turn against Jayalalitha – already there is a degree of dissent against the massive power cuts, the rising power bills, and the rising cost of transport in the state. The DMK would rather that the elections happen a year later, on schedule.
Even in 2014, what options does it really have? Will it be smarter for it to fight against both, the AIADMK and Congress, or get into an arrangement with the Congress. At the state level, the Congress also has no option, but to tie-up with the DMK. The AIADMK is too mesmerized by Narendra Modi, and any association with the Congress is difficult, at least at the pre-poll stage. The Congress’s worries are profound too; with its most visible face from the state, Chidambaram, sure to be feeling the blues. On the one hand, Chidambaram realizes that there is a chance that his party would make him the PM if the UPA got inadequate votes in 2014; on the other hand, there is no surety that he will even be able to retain his seat given the general anti-Congress mood. Chidambaram will make sure that the DMK and Congress join hands – yet again.
There is also this truth about time being the best healer. A few months back, the NCP was apparently furious with the Congress. It felt hurt, blah blah. Media jumped the gun and claimed that the government would fall. Today, the party is back to being the Congress’s “most reliable” ally. This is all too common in politics. Regional parties feel the need at times to assert their independent identity, but then cold logic takes over. In a coalition era, that cold logic drives everything.
The real truth is that nothing dramatic should be expected from TN. Do not expect a political re-alignment. Do not expect the central government to fall. And do not be surprised if the DMK and Congress start to tango all over again in a few months time….