H.G. Wells once said, “In politics, the best way to play your cards is to lay them face upwards on the table.” This is exactly what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done. From day one, he made it clear that the Congress’ victory was a mandate for clean government and effective governance and that he would not compromise on that. This explains why despite murmurings of discontent from the DMK, 19 ministers of cabinet rank have been sworn in. That the government means business is clear in that some old faces like former human resource development minister Arjun Singh have been dropped. The DMK should know that unlike in 2004, its elbow-room is somewhat diminished.
With improved numbers and allies, the Congress is in a better position now to dictate terms. The DMK also cannot do without the Congress support in Tamil Nadu. The art of coalition is one of give and take. Those who were not quite able to understand this, or chose not to, like the Left have paid a heavy price. Mr Karunanidhi is a shrewd practitioner of politics. Therefore, he should know better than to put the government in a spot even before it’s got off the starting block. To be sure, there are faces in the DMK that the Congress will not take on board owing to their dubious record. Their inclusion in the cabinet is not something that the DMK should make a prestige issue of. That the Congress is willing to give the DMK its fair share in return for its support is not something that should be taken for granted. If it chooses to sit it out and support the government from outside, it will be the loser in the long-run. The mandate was for a coalition of like-minded, secular and progressive parties to lead the country. The voters will be disappointed to see such squabbling for office at the outset.
Let the dust settle and let people enjoy a period of calm and stable governance. The DMK should not push things to a fever pitch. Going by all indications, the Congress does not look like it will give in. A stalemate will not benefit anyone and could create disillusionment with the political process just when things were looking up.