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Losing the plot along the way

The DMK overplayed its hand with a Congress that held several aces up its sleeve.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2011 23:31 IST

It was a drama worthy of the scriptwriter that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M Karunanidhi once was. Except that the party had to move from lead role to second lead after the Congress got the better of it in the contentious seat-sharing arrangement.

The DMK had to concede the 63 seats that the Congress was adamant on after some strong words from the Congress president on what was thought to be discourteous behaviour on the part of the DMK. Though this is a triumph in strategic thinking for the Congress, the drawback is that it is going to the polls with the DMK, which is scam-tainted and disunited within.

The various children and wives of the DMK supremo have no love lost for each other and this could prove the undoing of the party. This will impact negatively on the alliance which faces a stiff challenge from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) of J Jayalalithaa.

The DMK’s negotiators seem to have erred gravely in pushing the envelope as far as they did. From the start, it was on a sticky wicket, thanks to its efforts to shield people like former telecom minister A Raja.

The very fact that the UPA government axed the minister, though belatedly, and is continuing the probe into the 2G spectrum scam should have sent signals to the DMK that it was dealing with an ally which held several aces up its sleeve. Even now, the UPA government has not put the brakes on the CBI’s plans to interrogate Mr Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi and her mother for their role in the kickbacks from the scam.

The DMK will also be hobbled by the anti-incumbency factor and from the fact that the electorate appears disillusioned with a party which increasingly looks like a family firm. The only saving grace for the DMK is that Jayalalithaa too has the dubious distinction of being perceived as corrupt by many and has also earned a reputation as a notoriously fickle ally.

The Congress could also be sending a signal to other allies like the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in Kerala that it will not be held hostage to coalition compulsions.

The IUML is embroiled in an unseemly scandal which could impact on the alliance in Kerala. But, the United Democratic Front will benefit from the internal rifts within the ruling Left Democratic Front.

The Congress’s newfound assertiveness could well be the harbinger of its plans to go it alone in the future. And to the discomfiture of its allies, it seems to have slowly taken on the role of both scriptwriter and acting though it remains to be seen whether it can ensure the finale that it wants.