|Karunanidhi in Chennai
on Tuesday. (PTI)
March 19: The DMK today withdrew support to the UPA, prompting a vulnerable government to seek stability in the reassurances of outside supporters and an assessment that the southern ally will limit itself to a pullout and steer clear of any pull-down efforts.
The exit of the second biggest ally within a span of a few months came after the Centre and the DMK failed to agree on condemning Sri Lanka for an alleged genocide of Tamils in 2009. ( )
The DMK submitted the withdrawal letter to the President tonight and said its Union ministers — one cabinet and four ministers of state — would resign tomorrow. But the party has not yet made clear its stand on lending outside support.
Earlier in the day, the party had been demanding that Parliament pass a resolution and the Centre push a UN forum for an independent probe.
The government is yet to take a decision on the resolution as it involves the internal affairs of another country. Besides, a section feels that geopolitical interests should not be sacrificed for the sake of pacifying a domestic ally.
The pullout of an 18-MP party like the DMK should have created panic in the ruling combine and triggered the final countdown to the next election. But the Congress leadership cut an unruffled visage and finance minister P. Chidambaram said the stability and the continuance of the government was not an issue.
The Samajwadi Party and the BSP, which are propping the UPA from outside with enough numbers to ensure majority, were quick to reaffirm their support. BSP leader Mayawati said: “The UPA government is not in a minority. We will support it.” SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said the party’s support for the UPA would continue.
On its own, the UPA now has 224 MPs but can go up to 281 with outside support, against the effective majority mark of 270.
Congress leaders indicated the DMK did not want to pull down the government and its exit could not be compared with Trinamul’s antagonistic separation.
There were even suggestions from different quarters that the Congress and the DMK were moving “in harmony” and the development had more to do with the Tamil Nadu ally’s local political troubles than a breakdown of understanding with the central government.
The government went about its normal business, debating the anti-rape law in the Lok Sabha and clearing the food security bill in the cabinet. However, the stock markets panicked with the sensex falling by 258 points.
Minutes after news of the DMK’s decision to withdraw support broke, the Congress core committee met and sent out Chidambaram to allay fears on the stability of the government.
Chidambaram, who was part of the negotiations with Karunanidhi last night, said: “Let me assure everyone that the stability of the government and the continuation of the government are not an issue. The government is absolutely stable and enjoys majority in the Lok Sabha.”
The finance minister said Karunanidhi’s “demands deserve all respect”.
Referring to Karunanidhi’s complaint that a UN forum resolution was watered down, Chidambaram said: “As far as the resolution in the UNHRC is concerned, we are examining the final draft that came to us late last night and whether amendments can be moved to that draft to strengthen that resolution.
“As far as the DMK’s request for Parliament to adopt a resolution is considered, it is evident that we would have to consult all political parties. Consultations have begun on the suggestion that Parliament should adopt a resolution.”
Asked whether he was hopeful that DMK will reconsider its decision, Chidambaram had said in the evening: “According to the media reports, the DMK president has said that he will review the decision if a resolution is brought before Parliament. We take note of that statement also.”
Although some leaders suggested the government was working on a resolution to be brought in Parliament, many others felt this exercise should be avoided. They contended that India should not force Sri Lanka to slip into China’s lap, and informal criticism was better than using a parliamentary device to censure a friendly neighbour.
The BJP is opposed to a country-specific resolution. Sharad Pawar, too, is not in favour of a diplomatic misadventure.
The Congress core committee met twice again during the day to assess the situation after consulting other parties on the possibility of a resolution but no clear picture emerged. The government may discuss the issue in Parliament before taking the final decision on the resolution and the wording of its text.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi cautiously disapproved of the atrocities on Tamils in Sri Lanka while addressing the MPs today.
She said: “The plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka is very close to our hearts. Our support for their equal rights and equal protection of the laws to them has been unwavering since the days of Indiraji and Rajivji. We are most pained at the manner in which their legitimate political rights continue to be denied to them.”
The message is clear that India was neither supportive of an international investigation nor using the expression “genocide”, the two key demands put forward by the DMK.
The Congress is hence trying to take the matter to Parliament to ensure that the position of every party becomes clear on this issue, particularly the BJP which has taken a position contrary to AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa’s stand.
Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath today said in the Lok Sabha: “The government views with serious concern the happenings in Sri Lanka and we are sensitive to it. We are open for a discussion in the House on the subject. The business advisory committee may fix a time and date for the discussion.”