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How Karunanidhi joined hands with BJP before 1999 general elections, then parted ways five years later

After AIADMK pulled out of the BJP-led government at the Centre in 1998, it joined hands with DMK and returned to power a year later.

india Updated: Aug 08, 2018 01:40 IST
New Delhi
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Karunanidhi pulled out his two ministers out of the Vajpayee government in December 2003.(PTI/File Photo)

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Bharatiya Janata Party were unlikely allies in many ways, but a series of developments in Delhi and Chennai brought the two closer before the general election in 1999. The relationship remained smooth until the two separated before the 2004 election.

India saw a snap poll in 1998 after the Congress withdrew support to the IK Gujaral government. The BJP entered into an alliance with the AIADMK and they bagged 30 out of 39 seats of the southern state. Atal Bihari Vajpayee returned as the Prime Minister. So far so good.

But Vajpayee came under pressure from J Jayalalithaa to withdraw income tax related cases against her and dismiss the DMK government. The BJP-AIADMK bond was under strain and it broke. A tea party in Delhi featuring Jayalalithaa and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had set the stage for Vajpayee’s fall. Jaya had pulled out of the NDA and Vajpayee government lost the trust vote by one vote.

The Jaya chapter was over, and Vajpayee’s chief troubleshooter Pramod Mahajan came up with the idea of alliance with the DMK. Not many in the BJP, then, felt it was possible. The DMK was seen as an atheist party, the BJP an outfit of saadhus. DMK stood for anti-Brahmin politics, the BJP was called a Brahmin-Baniya party. The DMK was a party with base in southern India, the BJP was a north-Indian party.

Still, Mahajan had his way. A few calls between Mahajan and Murasoli Maran — a prominent DMK figure, script writer for films, journalist, and, above all, a close relative of Karunanidhi — sealed the deal between the BJP and the DMK. The unimaginable had happened. The two parties had got together. Vajpayee returned to power in 1999 with DMK as an ally this time. Maran was rewarded with commerce ministry portfolio. TR Baalu and A Raja, too, were made ministers.

The relationship between the DMK and the BJP remained smooth. Maran grew closer to Vajpyee and had a special bond with Mahajan. He, however, took ill by 2002. Maran was retained as a minister without portfolio even as he was in coma. He died in November 2003 and Vajpayee attended his funeral.

The DMK was getting wary of its support among Christian and Muslims over its pact with the BJP in post-2002 Gujarat riots situation and other differences. Karunanidhi pulled out his two ministers out of the Vajpayee government in December 2003.

First Published: Aug 08, 2018 01:40 IST