Row with Cong may hit DMK’s poll prospects

Row with Cong may hit DMK’s poll prospects

The decision of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) to withdraw unconditional support to the Congress at the Centre may rebound on Tamil Nadu’s ruling party as the state goes to poll on 13 April, political observers said.

Miffed over talks on sharing seats in the state assembly polls, the DMK said on Saturday that it would support the United Progressive Alliance in New Delhi only on specific issues, and would withdraw its six ministers from the Union government.

Although it was an embarrassment to the Congress-led coalition embattled over corruption charges, the move could adversely affect the DMK in Tamil Nadu.

“The (state) ruling party will suffer more and is more vulnerable," said Gnani Sankaran, a Chennai-based columnist and political analyst. “Congress does not have much to lose in the state."

Sankaran said the DMK had earlier used “withdrawal threats"—even during cabinet formation after the UPA returned to power for the second time in 2009—to pressurize the Congress.

“He (Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi) has been quite a rude ally and exploited (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi’s gentleness as a weakness," Sankaran said. “This time, it seems not Sonia Gandhi but Rahul Gandhi is calling shots. Even if both parties reach some understanding now, the alliance will not work at the ground level practically because Congress workers will not work for the DMK and vice-versa."

The present crisis was a result of the “DMK’s adamant stance against power sharing in post-poll scenario," according to a Congress leader, who did not want to be identified.

DMK leaders said the party decided to break the alliance after the Congress sought more seats than the agreed 60 during negotiations for the 234-member assembly polls.

The move was also linked to the ongoing investigations into the second-generation scam, analysts said. DMK leader A. Raja, former telecom minister, who has been accused in the case, is currently in prison.

Manoharan, a Congress leader from Coimbatore, who uses only one name, said his party would perform better if it aligns with opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), or as a third force with actor Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK).

“People are upset with the DMK over the corruption charges. There is a general feeling that Karunanidhi and family have been interested in making money rather than administrating the state," Manoharan said. “The goodwill it had generated by the welfare measures has disappeared now."

He added it was “highly unlikely that Congress workers at the ground level would work for DMK candidates even if a last-minute partnership is clinched."

“If the Congress joins hands with the AIADMK, the DMK will be simply doomed," said Sankaran.

The Congress, especially Rahul Gandhi, appears to be keen to “expand" the party base, said Palanidurai, head of political science department of Gandhigram University in Chennai.

“The repeated visits of Rahul Gandhi were a clear signal that the party wanted to have an independent say and expand its presence at the grass-roots level," Palanidurai said. “It actually wants to exploit the middle-class anger against the DMK in the election for it."

Meanwhile, Congress leaders said the present stalemate in its ties with the DMK would not be a threat to the UPA government. They said the DMK, which has 18 members in the Lok Sabha, is not likely to pull down the government.

DMK leader T.R. Baalu said in Chennai that its ministers will meet the Prime Minister on Monday to hand over their resignations.

The Congress, which has 207 members in the Lok Sabha, also has the support of the 19-member Trinamool Congress (with which the party leadership is in seat-sharing discussions for poll-bound West Bengal), Nationalist Congress Party’s nine members of Parliament (MPs), and 21 others, including independents and smaller parties in the 543-member Lower House. The party needs 272 members to remain in power.

Besides, Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of Samajwadi Party (SP), which extends outside support to the UPA government, on Sunday ruled out any political instability. “There is no threat to the government. It is not in minority," Yadav told reporters in Lucknow.

“SP had and will continue to support the government at the Centre," he added. The SP, Uttar Pradesh’s main opposition party, has 22 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

PTI contributed to this story.