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Busy in Delhi, sad in south

Chennai, Dec. 21: As the DMK’s Union ministers sent in their resignation today, the BJP shunned a “blame game” while defending its Tamil Nadu unit, which has long had strained relations with the former southern ally.

Hours after environment minister T.R. Baalu and junior health and family welfare minister A. Raja submitted their resignation to the Prime Minister in Delhi, BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu said his party was “saddened” at the development.

The DMK had yesterday announced the pullout from the NDA at the Centre but decided to continue issue-based support from outside.

On the way to Delhi from his hometown of Nellore, near Chennai, Naidu admitted this evening that the BJP, “busy with governance in New Delhi” and its anxieties to “deliver to the people”, failed to adequately attend to the prolonged impasse between its state unit and the DMK. But he added: “I do not find fault with my state unit.”

There were misunderstandings, but the BJP unit was asked to “issue clarifications” now and then, Naidu said. The “NDA was not functioning at the state level,” he added, referring to the widening rift since March 2002.

Naidu emphasised that the state unit found “unpalatable” DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s “sharing (of) a platform with the Congress and the Left parties” on certain issues. “We are opposing the Congress and the Left parties at the national level,” he said.

But the BJP chief was quick to note that the party had been comfortable working with the DMK at the Centre and acknowledged the contributions of its ministers, including that of the late Murasoli Maran at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha.

Naidu clarified that his remark about the DMK’s agitation against the terror law was a “general statement” on what “coalition dharma” entailed.

Naidu said in Chennai last week that it was “neither ideal nor healthy” for the DMK “to be in government at the Centre and go in agitation in the state”.

Declining comment on whether he thought the Jayalalithaa-led ADMK was a “more natural ally” of his party, Naidu said alliances would crystallise only when “we come close to the (general) elections”.

“If they (DMK) come back, we will be happy,” Naidu said, adding he would “discuss” with NDA convener George Fernandes his last night’s conversation with Karunanidhi. DMK sources, however, said this evening that it was too late for the party to retrace its steps.

The BJP, they added, went all out to defend its allies in Uttar Pradesh — like when Independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh was slapped with charges under the anti-terror law — and in Punjab for Parkash Singh Badal. But it failed to show the same commitment to the DMK and the MDMK. “We have been insulted,” the sources said.

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