Chennai, May 30: M. Karunanidhi today threatened to pull out of the UPA if petrol prices weren’t rolled back, only to declare less than three hours later that his party would stay with the ruling combine.
According to sources, the DMK chief was compelled to clarify after senior leader T.R. Baalu met Manmohan Singh in Delhi and told the DMK chief that the Prime Minister was upset with the threat.
“We are hoping for a good decision from the Prime Minister. Even if the price hike is not rolled back, we will continue in the government with bitterness. We don’t want to create a crisis at the time of presidential elections. If we come out now, it will help non-secular forces. Also our protest was only against the price hike and not the Centre,” Karunanidhi said after the Centre had frowned on his ultimatum.
Earlier in the day, the DMK boss said he valued his party’s principles more than continuing in the UPA and defending its anti-people policies. “For us being part of the coalition at the Centre has not stopped us from protesting against anti-people policies. If our basic principles are threatened, we would persuade the Centre to rectify it. We will insist and stay with them only till it is possible. If they do not heed we will come away separately to press our principles,” he had declared around 10.30am while leading a DMK protest against the hike.
The retraction came around 1.20pm when Karunanidhi called in newspersons waiting at the DMK headquarters and claimed his speech had been misinterpreted. When it was pointed out that he had openly spoken about pulling out, Karunanidhi clarified that he had only pointed to past instances like when his party had withdrawn from the BJP-led NDA and had not threatened to pull out of the UPA.
A DMK MP suggested Karunanidhi was forced to clarify under pressure. “When T.R. Baalu met the Prime Minister this morning with a letter seeking a rollback, sometime after Karunanidhi’s speech, Manmohan Singh asked if the DMK was serious about the pullout if there was no rollback. Stunned by the Prime Minister’s blunt query, Baalu said he would get back with the clarification. Baalu informed his boss in Chennai that the Prime Minister was upset over his speech. Only then our leader decided to put the record straight,” said the MP.
Although DMK cadres had cheered Karunanidhi’s remarks about “coming away separately”, the threat itself was couched in a language that could be interpreted either way. “There was enough leeway for Karunanidhi to claim that he issued no such ultimatum to the Centre. On the other hand Karunanidhi could also claim later, when the Centre announces a partial rollback, that it was his threat to pull out that had forced the UPA government’s hand,” said a senior DMK functionary.