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DMK politics with economics

Chennai, Jan. 12: For the first time since joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government in 1999, the DMK today hit out at the Centre’s economic reforms.

The DMK, the BJP’s key ally from Tamil Nadu, in an apparent move to increase its “pressure space” at the Centre, described the reforms as “going against the basic structure of the Constitution”. The criticism came in a resolution passed here today at the DMK’s state executive meeting, chaired by party president M. Karunanidhi.

The resolution was passed amid expectations of a change in political equations before the February 26 Assembly bypoll to Sattankulam in south Tamil Nadu.

For political observers here, the sudden attack on the economic reforms was a surprise. A prominent DMK member in the Union Cabinet, Murasoli Maran, has after all been a strong votary of liberalisation. Maran is now convalescing from a heart ailment in a US hospital.

Today’s scathing resolution comes soon after the DMK’s war of words with the state BJP. The DMK had parted ways with the state BJP in March last year for allegedly forging a “secret pact” with Jayalalithaa’s ADMK.

The attack on the second generation economic reforms may be belated, but it was loaded with a political message. The DMK today clarified that it was among the first political parties to adopt a resolution hailing the Constitutional Amendment in 1976 that declared India a “socialist republic” in the preamble.

Today’s resolution said “socialism” was accepted as part of the Constitution’s “basic structure”. So pursuing economic reforms now in a manner that violated the “basic structure” was “highly condemnable”.

The DMK began its critique with the privatisation of profitable public sector undertakings (PSUs) and said it “appeared the disinvestment process portended a danger of enhancing the monopoly power of big industrial houses, much to the detriment of the interests of workers”.

Kannagi statue

DMK president M. Karunanidhi, true to his last night’s announcement that from now “literature will get precedence over politics” in his public life, today cut short a press conference to unveil a statue of Kannagi, the tragic heroine in Silapadhikaram,a Tamil epic.

The statue was unveiled at the premises of the DMK’s youth wing office. The 78-year-old leader has been unrelenting in his resolve to reinstall a Kannagi statue after the ADMK government reportedly removed her statue at Marina beach on Vaastu advice.

The party, regretting the gradual winding up of the “Planning era”, charged that in the “name of globalisation”, the Indian market was being flooded with products from the developed world, hurting domestic industry. This could pose a serious danger to India’s economy’s growth, said the resolution that C. Kuppuswami, a DMK MP, introduced.

The DMK urged the Centre to immediately stop disinvesting profit-making PSUs and units that catered to people’s “basic needs”. The party also called for “suitable modifications” to the New Economic Policy, both at the Centre and the states, to ensure encouragement for domestic industry and avert largescale unemployment.

The final resolution, however, was a watered down version of a radical one the DMK first adopted. The original resolution had demanded of the Centre and the states to “give up” economic reforms.

A little later, however, and just before Karunanidhi left for lunch, the demand was diluted to “suitable changes” in the New Economic Policy.

The resolution and the DMK’s discomfort with the “Hindutva debate” notwithstanding, the party today sought to keep Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in good humour.

In a resolution passed earlier today, the DMK profusely thanked Vajpayee for his “timely help” in shifting Maran to a US hospital. Doctors have assured Karunanidhi that Maran would be back in office in March.

The DMK also took the opportunity to support the Left parties’ demand that the state government should give up its plans to privatise the bus transport sector and to scrap free electricity to farmers.

The DMK state executive urged the Centre to provide drought-hit farmers, including those in the Cauvery delta, rice and other essential items.

It was “not proper” to ask farmers and their families to line up before “noon meal centres” from January 15 for a free meal as planned by the Jayalalithaa government, the DMK said.

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