NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee did not have his deputy at his side during the all-important presentation of Budget 2012.
The DMK’s S S Palanimanickam was seen enjoying himself at a waterfall in Tamil Nadu, near the byelection zone of Sankarankoil.
And so it came to pass that the DMK, which has 18 MPs, just one short of Trinamool Congress’s 19, was represented by its members and not its ministers. None of its four remaining ministers (post A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran’s exit) were there during the Budget presentation.
The ministers were all, apparently, marking their presence in the Sankarankoil byelection, while the MPs led by Baalu were in the House.
Kanimozhi and T. Shiva were the supporting cast at the Rajya Sabha MPs’ gallery upstairs. The Finance Minister’s office, though not exactly elated with the DMK minister’s absence, tried to pass it off as a “political compulsion’’ of the southern ally.
Already in the midst of a rough patch with Trinamool, it seems the UPA troubleshooter can do without another full-blown melodrama on his plate. “They want a firm commitment on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, this is their way of putting pressure—armtwisting,’’ a close aide of the finance minister admitted.
With public outrage over the Sri Lanka army’s alleged war crimes against the Tamil population in the northern part of the island nation growing by the day, the DMK can ill-afford not to put up some kind of protest against the government in the Centre, which is refusing to commit itself on backing a US-inspired anti-Sri Lanka resolution in UNHRC, scheduled to come up in Geneva on March 23.
“We are not arm-twisting, but the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is a real one, we are genuinely concerned. Just as we are concerned about the rail fare hike,’’ says Elangovan. The argument put forth by Karunanidhi is that he too has run a government in Tamil Nadu from 2006 to 2011 and not increased any fare ever.
The DMK expects the same from the Centre. Though it is unsaid, the DMK is in quiet solidarity with the TMC. They are standing together on this issue, just as they did on FDI in retail. They of course want the TMC to return the favour to them on the Sri Lankan issue. However, the DMK is emphatic that it is in their interest that the UPA government survives.
They will go the way of gentle coercion, but simply cannot afford to pull the plug on it. That would be playing right into Jayalalithaa’s hands.