A regional party's relevance at the Centre is directly proportional to the ground it holds in its home base. On this count, the DMK's defeat in Chennai meant a loss of clout in Delhi.
This isn't to suggest that Kanimozhi would have escaped the law had Karunanidhi remained chief minister. Nobody in the UPA could have helped her secure relief. The 2G probe is under the Supreme Court's watch.
"It's a matter between the court, the accused person and the probing authority," said Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi's while Kanimozhi headed for jail on being denied bail. His comments had about them a ring of reality the DMK didn't visualise while ruling Tamil Nadu.
Notionally, Karunanidhi can disturb the UPA applecart. But will he? Not really, unless, of course, he turns a political fidayeen. The Congress has options. He doesn't. Expediency demands that he keep power in Delhi when he has none else except himself to blame for his woes.
There were no limits to Karunanidhi's arrogance till being hit by the Jayalalilthaa juggernaut. He wasn't a tad deterred by the fact that his minority regime in Chennai survived on Congress support.
He promoted his progenies and protégés with little regard for merit or temperament to govern. They got plum portfolios and were accountable to none except the Kalaignar.
The Kalaignar (scholar of arts) so artfully leveraged power that the Congress looked like a junior partner in the alliance it led. Such abdication of responsibility brought grief to the UPA in general and the Prime Minister in particular.
For seven years Manmohan Singh put up with reckless DMK ministers at considerable cost to his image. TR Baalu was arrogant, A Raja corrupt and MK Alagiri inept and disinterested in the job he got at Baalu's expense in UPA-II. His tenure as chemicals minister is notable only for his absenteeism and inability to grasp issues.
The UPA had lost the plot when Raja quit in November 2010. The story would have been different had Karunanidhi acceded to the PM's wish to drop the telecom minister in June-July, 2010 in the wake of the CBI probe. Then came the damning CAG report, the UPA-Opposition face off over setting up a JPC and the Supreme Court's decision to oversee CBI investigations.
It's well known that Raja was Kanimozhi's man in the Cabinet and Dayanidhi Maran a prop of MK Stalin. Karunanidhi brought Alagiri to Delhi as a quid pro quo for younger son Stalin's elevation as Deputy CM as a precursor to anoint him as his successor.
All that is history now. Karunanidhi cuts a tragic figure, faced in his twilight years with the humiliation of his daughter's arrest and a possible family war that could leave his once-mighty party in pieces. It's time he stopped being a father. And acted like a leader.