The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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DMK bides time till poll ‘semis’

New Delhi, Jan. 22: The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is likely to start exploring options outside the National Democratic Alliance but only after the November Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi, sources close to DMK chief M. Karunanidhi said.

According to them, the polls — a “kind of semi-finals for Lok Sabha 2004” — would prove if the BJP is still capable of delivering the political goodies or not. Till then, “we will wait and watch”, they added.

The sources said the DMK, out on a limb after being worsted in the last Assembly election, felt cheered by Vijay Goel’s visit to Chennai last Friday. The Prime Minister’s emissary assured Karunanidhi that the BJP still valued his party as an ally.

The sources maintained that Goel, at his meeting with Karunanidhi, said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in no mood to have anything to do with ADMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa. This was music to Karunanidhi’s ears because relations between the DMK and the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit have hit an all-time low, with state leaders even giving the impression that they wanted to dump the DMK at the first opportunity.

DMK sources said the impression they got from Goel was that despite Jayalalithaa’s pro-Hindutva overtures, BJP leaders were wary of renegotiating a relationship with the ADMK chief because of their 1998 experience when she was part of the central coalition.

The crunch, these sources said, would come in November. “If the BJP wins the elections, we will continue to stick to it. It will be clear that it would have the upper hand over the Congress in the next Lok Sabha elections. If it doesn’t, we have to think of other alternatives,” they said.

The wait-and-watch policy reveals that despite its claims of being “secular”, the DMK has little problems with the BJP’s Hindutva ideology.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani recently made it clear that the BJP would fight the coming state polls on issues like Ayodhya, common civil code and abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, which were excluded from the NDA’s common agenda for governance at the Centre.

Sources said part of the DMK’s compulsion to cling to the NDA has to do with the attitude of the Congress.

“The Congress has not been responsive to us and, even if we have an alliance with them, they will adopt a big brother attitude. The difference between the BJP and the Congress is that while the former is willing to play a junior partner, the Congress exaggerates its strength and demands a greater share of seats than it should realistically claim,” the sources explained.

However, the DMK’s decision to boycott the Sattankulam Assembly bypoll could help the Congress, which is pitted against the ADMK in what may become a straight contest if the BJP opts out.

“We hope the Congress picks up the signal,” the DMK sources said.

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