The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dravidian foes vie for BJP heart

New Delhi, Aug. 24: One is an ally of the ruling coalition at the Centre, the other was four years ago — but is now trying to work its way back into the fold.

As parliamentary elections approach, the BJP is involved in subtle manoeuvres with the two main Dravidian parties from Tamil Nadu — the DMK and the ADMK. Bitter rivals in the state, chief minister Jayalalithaa’s party is aspiring to oust the M. Karunanidhi-led DMK and take its place in the National Democratic Alliance.

How cautiously the BJP is treading was evident when the issue of uniform civil code came up in the Lok Sabha during question hour yesterday. In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court had stressed on the need for such a code.

Knowing well that the issue is close to the BJP’s heart and aware that the DMK is opposed to it, ADMK member K. Malaisamy repeatedly sought a clear answer from law minister Arun Jaitley. The MP wanted to know whether the Centre proposed to follow up on the apex court’s ruling and if the minister could set a deadline for a possible legislation. The ADMK is a vocal supporter of a uniform code.

The question was an obvious attempt to drive a wedge between the BJP and the DMK, which is suspicious of the former’s growing proximity with Jayalalithaa’s party.

Malaisamy intervened thrice to get Jaitley to reply, as uniform civil code is one of the three key planks of the BJP.

The law minister, however, could not be coaxed into giving a definite answer, though every time he stood up to respond, anxious DMK members made known their opposition to a uniform code. All that Jaitley was willing to say was the Centre was constantly seeking to reform personal laws of different religions through consultations among religious leaders. Such reforms in personal laws of different religions would have to precede a uniform civil code, he added, without further elaboration.

If there were smiles on the faces of the ADMK members, those of the DMK were relieved that the minister did not go further.

Thursday also saw an incident that reflected the ADMK’s not-so-hidden bid to ease out Karunanidhi’s party from the NDA and the DMK’s fight to keep its place without compromising on its principles.

When DMK MPs protested agriculture minister Rajnath Singh’s attempt to introduce the cow slaughter bill, ADMK members, who supported the introduction, were seen telling their Dravidian rivals they could leave the coalition if they disapproved of it.

The DMK members, however, impressed upon the BJP benches that cow slaughter was not on the NDA agenda, which should be respected.

The BJP decided not to press for the introduction as most other NDA allies also opposed the move.

The DMK’s growing sense of unease regarding the BJP was evident during the debate on the no-confidence motion on Tuesday, when T.R. Baalu appealed to the Prime Minister not to ditch a “dependable” friend like Karunanidhi. The minister was obviously alluding to the growing closeness of the BJP leadership with Jayalalithaa.

It is a record of sorts for the two Dravidian parties to be virtually on the same side on a big issue like the no-confidence motion moved by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. ADMK members did not participate in the vote as they did not want to vote for the motion. But if they chose not to vote, it was because of the DMK’s presence in the NDA.

From the ADMK’s posturings in the House during the monsoon session, it seems the party is willing to bide its time till the BJP decides on who its Dravidian ally will be in the next polls.

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