The seven-year alliance between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) — always strenuous — took a turn for the worse on Saturday. The DMK announced it was withdrawing from the UPA government and breaking off its alliance with the Congress in Tamil Nadu. The state goes to polls on April 13.
Though numerical instability is not an immediate threat, the DMK’s parting of ways could aggravate the sense of siege that has gripped the UPA government following allegations of scams and inefficiency in recent months. In the middle of the budget session of Parliament, it is ill-timed for the UPA.
Both sides attributed the break-up to irreconcilable differences over seat-sharing in Tamil Nadu. “The DMK has decided that it would like to free itself (of the UPA) and not continue in the central government and extend only issue-based support to the Centre,” a resolution adopted by the party said. The DMK added that its six ministers in the Manmohan Singh council of ministry would submit their resignation.
Given the DMK’s history of political brinkmanship with the Congress, it could be similar this time too. “We may review the decision to withdraw from the government if the Congress scales down its demands,” said DMK leader TR Baalu hours after the original announcement. “We will continue to talk,” said a senior Congress leader.
The alliance turned sour after the CBI in 2009 launched a probe into the 2G spectrum scam, leading to the arrest of former telecom minister and DMK leader A Raja. The CBI is now closing in on K Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha MP and daughter of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi.
The exit of the DMK — with 18 Lok Sabha MPs — from the ministry will not directly impact the survival of the UPA, which has the support of 319 members, well above the halfway mark of 272 in the Lok Sabha. Some unfriendly parties such as the BSP are also counted as supporters, but the Samajwadi Party with 22 MPs is keen to join.
Welcoming the decision, DMK cadre said “dump the Congress, we will win on our own”.
Three rounds of talks, the last between the AICC’s Tamil Nadu in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad and Tamil Nadu CM Karunanidhi, had indicated that things were moving to a happy conclusion, with the Congress accepting 60 seats. But abruptly, things changed for the worse.
There were two sticking points. One, the Congress wanted three more seats and a better choice of seats. Two, the Congress wanted to be part of a future government if the alliance won. The DMK has ferociously kept the Congress out of power in Tamil Nadu though the party’s government could not have survived without the latter’s support.
Unable to reach an agreement on these issues, the talks snapped. But the last word has not been said, if indications from both camps are to go by. Karunanidhi briefed party leaders of the developments that led to the decision and said that with more seats available for the DMK to contest, it would be possible to win majority on their own, a senior DMK minister said.
“Since the Congress seemed not to be interested in continuing with the alliance, as is clear by its ever changing demands, we are breaking off the alliance in Tamil Nadu,” a DMK source said.