DMK chief M Karunanidhi is, in some way, a man of the moment. With 18 members in Lok Sabha, the DMK is the second largest partner of the UPA after Congress, subsequent to the Trinamool Congress pull out. One adverse move by MK could bring the government down. So, the question doing the rounds in Chennai is will Karunanidhi do a Mamata Banerjee.
Trying to send across the signal that he may go the Mamata’s way, the canny politician is planning his moves just to ensure that the interest of his party—read his family members—is protected, irrespective of the fact whether the government stays or falls or if the diesel price hike is rolled back or not.
“We wanted the party to walk out long time back. It is only M K Alagiri, the Union Minister for Chemicals, who feels that it is prudent to remain in the government,” said a DMK source. Karunanidhi’s priority, too, is to be part of the ruling coalition at the Centre, particularly after he lost power to the AIADMK in the state. It could even be one with the BJP at the helm or a new Third Front. “Thalaivar (leader) is not demanding more Cabinet berths in the next reshuffle though the vacancies left by Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja have not been given to us. He just wants to stick to the UPA till the next elections,” says a party functionary.
But Karunanidhi has started exploring other options, which became evident from the meeting that his son Alagiri had with NCP leaders, Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel in New Delhi last week at the sidelines of a group of ministers meeting. Since the NCP is the third largest partner in UPA with nine MPs, the two parties could threaten the government's longevity. But, as DMK sources in Chennai say, the party would first put forth its demands and would look for an alternative only if it fails.
Karuna’s recent opposition to the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse to India has irked Congressmen.
More than that, it was DMK’s support to the Bharat Bandh, called by the NDA and other opposition parties on Thursday, that earned their wrath. Since it was Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa who reacted strongly against the hike in diesel price, restriction on subsidised LPG cylinder supply and FDI in retail trade, Karunanidhi did not want to let her walk away with the credit of fighting against the moves of the Centre that are popularly perceived as ‘anti-common man’.
It is clear that DMK’s shouting from the roof tops is just to remind the Congress that the party has 18 MPs. It is definitely not to make the UPA government come around and roll back the reforms.
Sources say that if a viable Third Front emerges on the political horizon, Karunanidhi will have no qualms in dumping the Congress, telling the people that he did not want to see the ‘aam aadmi’ suffer. However, the question remains: How many of the 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will his party win in the event of a snap poll?