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When power is all that matters in TN

[Express Buzz, Tuesday, 23 December 2008 07:58 No Comment]

The recent fracas involving the Congress and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi cadre on the Sri Lankan issue has again brought to the fore the divisions among the constituents of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) fronts in Tamil Nadu. This state, more than any, has witnessed a proliferation of political parties, a majority of them caste-based. But the dominant players continue to be the two Dravidian outfits, garnering the major vote share and a rallying point for the smaller ones.

 

And alliance politics has become one big melting pot — a coming together of odd people and odd principles. Whether they will be a major poll plank is not clear, two recent issues — the Sri Lankan situation and Ram Sethu — are a case in point. Both are highly emotive issues and opinion is sharply polarised, with parties even from within the same front speaking in radically different voices.

 

There has been a lot of chest beating on the plight of Lankan Tamils. Since October, it has been a non-stop show — fasts, protest rallies, resignation threats etc., and all this happening in the backdrop of the Lankan army’s relentless march against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Only a thin line divides support for the Tamils and support for the LTTE in the state. Hence, when pro-LTTE parties like the Viduthalai Ciruththaikal Katchi (VCK) and the Pattali Makkal Katchi demanded that India pressure Lanka to declare a ceasefire, they did not have the Tamils’ plight alone in mind but also the Tigers’, fighting with their back to the wall against Gen Fonseka’s army.

 

VCK’s Thirumavalavan seemed to have scant regard for Congress sensibilities when he called for the ban on the LTTE to be revoked. PMK leader Ramadoss had made a similar demand in 2002.

The two parties are in the DMK bandwagon.

 

So is the Congress, which lost its leader to an LTTE human bomb. The party demanded Thirumavalavan’s arrest.

 

“It is our freedom of expression to talk about the LTTE. If the law is going to punish us for the same, we are ready to face the challenge,” he retaliated.

 

The arrest of director Seeman for allegedly making inflammatory remarks against Rajiv Gandhi has again brought the simmering tension between the two parties to the surface.

 

But what options do front leader and chief minister M Karunanidhi have? Nothing, but to listen to the pro-LTTE leaders, as they represent dominant vote banks — Dalits and Vanniyars. So it is not surprising to see him bending backwards to placate Ramadoss, a shifty ally even in the best of times, to bring him back into his fold. He knows ‘Amma’ is waiting in the wings. “Go to Delhi,” Ramadoss said. And braving the cold, the 84-year-old man went, all-party team in tow. Only at the risk of being labelled a bully and weakening its own case on terrorism, can New Delhi poke its nose in Colombo’s affairs. But the charade has to be played out. As the noose tightens around the LTTE in the days to come, more such acts will unfold.

Coalition hazard.

 

Like Lanka, Ram Sethu is an emotive issue but also at stake is a Rs 2,300-crore project. Caught between fear of public backlash in the Hindi heartland and Karunanidhi’s ire, the Congress seems to have completely lost its direction on the issue. The DMK indulged in some serious arm-twisting before the vote of confidence. Yet there seems to be no forward movement. Looks like the Congress may shelve the project for fear of losing its meagre votes in Ram’s native state. Amid all this confusion, the taxpayers are yet to be enlightened about the fate of their hard-earned money.

 

Karunanidhi’s beta noire AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa has struck out in a different direction. She has forged a pact with her ‘enemy’s enemy’— the Left. The last time they fought the Lok Sabha elections together was in 1999.

 

Since then much water has flowed under the ‘Sethu bridge’.

 

The alliance is an aberration. Jayalalithaa is a devout Hindu, something she has never bothered to hide. Quite refreshing really compared to other Dravidian party leaders, who propitiate the gods on the sly. She is fiercely fighting a case in the Supreme Court to protect Ram Sethu. The Hindu symbol is “an ancient heritage of the country’s composite culture” that falls in the realm of people’s “faith and belief ”, her affidavit said.

 

Her comrades will have none of it.

 

“Ram was born in the imagination of poets,” comrade Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said. State CPI leader D Pandian railed against “communal forces” for trying to derail the project. Besides the BJP and Hindutva outfits, did he have Jayalalithaa also in mind then? Again contrast Jayalalithaa’s unequivocal opposition to the LTTE with her ally Vaiko’s dubious connections with the terror outfit. When Fonseka called the MDMK leader a “joker”, even New Delhi saw it fit to lodge a protest but Jayalalithaa’s silence was eloquent.

As for the Left, it was the CPI that set the juggernaut rolling by calling for a fast on the issue.

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