Lanka strain tells on DMK alliance

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By G.C. SHEKHAR
  • Published 25.10.10
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Chennai, Oct. 24: The Congress and another DMK ally, Viduthalai Siruthaigal Katchi (VCK), are locked in a war of words which resulted in a statue of Rajiv Gandhi being garlanded with chappals in Chennai on Friday night.

Agitated Congressmen blocked traffic in the city yesterday and today, demanding the arrest of VCK activists who they blamed for the mischief. The ruling DMK attempted a desperate balancing act to mollify the only electoral allies it has at present.

Although the police arrested two persons, Congress leaders dismissed it as a cover-up since one is a DMK member.

The VCK — a Dalit party with a vote base in northern Tamil Nadu — had started the fight, with its pro-LTTE leader Thirumavalavan demanding that the DMK sever ties with the Congress because Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was invited as guest of honour to the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

“The DMK can win the elections even without the Congress, which had collaborated with Rajapaksa in destroying Tamil homes and lives,” the VCK leader said in a magazine interview. He added that the Congress would draw a blank if it fought alone as it was used to riding on the shoulders of Dravidian parties.

Congress leaders reacted angrily, with Union home minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti leading the counter-attack. In an interview to the same bi-weekly, Karti wondered why Thirumavalavan had been so reverential to Rajapaksa when he was the Lankan President’s guest as part of an MPs’ delegation to Colombo in 2009.

“He could have caught Rajapaksa by his collar and demanded justice for Tamils then. Instead, he only smiled and posed for photos with the President. The present posturing is aimed only at continuing to receive funds from Lankan Tamil organisations abroad,” Karti said.

Pointing out that Thirumavalavan had won his Lok Sabha seat with the support of the Congress, Karti asked if he would quit his seat and contest on his own. The VCK has one MLA and one MP from the state.

Karti also ridiculed the VCK leader’s failure to make an impression as an actor in a couple of Tamil movies. “Normally, those in films enter politics but Thirumavalavan travelled in the opposite direction with disastrous results. He resembled a security guard when he tried to portray a militant leader,” he said.

Former Union minister E.V.K.S. Elangovan argued that the Congress would not be the loser if Karunanidhi took Thirumavalavan’s advice to snap ties with the party. Karti asked if Thirumavalavan would advise the DMK chief to quit the Union government and whether Karunanidhi would accept that advice.

Congress leaders suspect that Thirumavalavan’s outburst was prompted by the DMK, which has been unable to digest the state Congress unit’s push for a respectful share of seats for the May 2011 Assembly elections. The enthusiastic response to Sonia Gandhi’s public meeting at Tiruchy on October 9 has further heightened Congress expectations of an honourable deal.

With the PMK still hovering on the sidelines, the Congress remains the only major ally of the DMK and therefore crucial to its electoral calculations. Barring 1997 and 1989, only the party that has aligned with the Congress (or its breakaway Tamil Maanila Congress, as in 1996) has won Assembly elections in the state.

The Congress calculation is that more seats in the next Assembly would force the DMK to share power in Chennai, as it has enjoyed in Delhi since 2004. So far, the DMK has refused to share power in the state, where the Congress extends outside support to the minority government.

“There was no provocation for Thirumavalavan to demand the Congress’s ouster at this stage. He has been used as a cat’s paw in the past by the DMK to test the mood in the Congress. The VCK leader’s statement and the defiling of Rajiv Gandhi’s statue has helped in uniting the state outfit which can only spell trouble for the DMK at the time of seat sharing,” a senior Congress MLA said.