Getting ready for another Lok Saba battle royal with the Congress on his side, the 84-year-old DMK President and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr. M.Karunanidhi, said the greater role by regional parties in the offing in the Government formation at the Centre, spelt a new phase in Indian coalition politics.
Opening up candidly on key issues in his first major press interaction in Chennai on Sunday night after his surgery, Mr.Karunanidhi said more regional parties being part of the Central coalition was not at the core of the DMK's demand of State Autonomy for decades. That was more to do with decentralization of more powers to the States from the Centre.
The core of our (DMK) State Autonomy demand is to have a Federal set-up, M Karunanidhi said quoting from the work his late nephew and former Union Minister, Murasoli Maran on this subject. However, the present trend of greater participation of regional parties in Central Coalitions is not far from our stated objective, he said.
In fact, it is just a crying distance away, Karunanidhi added, with visible resolve and grit to jump into the campaign fray despite his slow recovery from a high-risk spinal surgery recently. Karunanidhi also disclosed that he will be participating in joint rallies with the Congress Chairperson, Ms. Sonia Gandhi wherever possible.
Unfazed by the PMK's exit from their front to join the rival Ms.Jayalalithaa-headed AIADMK alliance in this election, Mr. Karunanidhi disagreed that it was because both the PMK and AIADMK were in the same wavelength on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue.
We (DMK) have been persistently demanding a ceasefire in Northern Sri Lanka and have condemned Rajapakshe regime's military offensive against the Tamils there, asserted Mr. Karunanidhi to dispel any impression of quietism. The DMK Chief also did not think that it would be any big electoral issue in Chennai. The Congress-led UPA had also been pressing for a political solution through dialogue, Mr. Karunanidhi emphasized.
Elated over other political parties emulating the DMK's cheap rice scheme and so on in their party manifestos, Mr. Karunanidhi hoped that the Centre would also take up implementation of the DMK's larger social reforms agenda
like assigning legality to Self-Respect Marriages, conducted without any religious ritual, at the All-India level.
As we go to the polls, you have only seen the first scene of a new film, Karunanidhi quipped when asked if the new front floated in the Cow Belt of UP and Bihar by the Lalu Prasad Yadav-Mulayam Singh Yadav-Ram Vilas Paswan trio, would hit Congress-front's prospects. Just wait and watch; it (film) will end with a different climax, Karunanidhi added to bursts of laughter, hinting they will back the UPA later.
He was inclined to go even softer on the RJD boss Lalu Yadav to a related query. Lalu is my good friend, I do not want to challenge him, Karunanidhi shot back, when asked about the Railway Minister's recent comment that only parties in North India will decide who will rule the Country next. This was in the backdrop of the 2004 polls giving regional parties from the South like DMK more leverage in the Government formation.