UPA now hostage to Mayawati, Mulayam as DMK pulls out


March 20, 2013

CHENNAI: DMK on Tuesday withdrew from the UPA to pressure the Manmohan Singh government to harden its stand against Sri Lanka for alleged human rights violations of Tamils, enhancing the ruling coalition's vulnerability to political calculations of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati but without creating a real crisis.

March 20, 2013

CHENNAI: DMK on Tuesday withdrew from the UPA to pressure the Manmohan Singh government to harden its stand against Sri Lanka for alleged human rights violations of Tamils, enhancing the ruling coalition's vulnerability to political calculations of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati but without creating a real crisis.

The decision of DMK, which ruled out extending outside support to the government, was communicated to President Pranab Mukherjee by parliamentary party leader T R Baalu late on Tuesday evening in New Delhi, ending a nine-year partnership which was crucial in NDA's defeat as well as Congress's return to power at the Centre after a gap of eight years.

The DMK's pullout shaved off 19 MPs — 18 belonging to the party and another from its ally VCK — from UPA's tally in Lok Sabha. However, with the SP and BSP maintaining that there was no threat to the government within moments of DMK's decision, UPA still remains assured of the support of 285 MPs: 17 more than what is required in a House of 536.

What appears on paper apart, coalition managers have been adept at producing unexpected numbers; almost out of thin air, in each crunch situation they have been through: a feat that has earned them the reputation of survival artists. There is no clarity if the DMK will straightaway slip into the role of an adversary.

Speaking to reporters just after DMK's announcement, finance minister P Chidambaram asserted that there was no threat to the government. "Let me assure everyone that the stability of the government and its continuation are not an issue. The government is absolutely stable and enjoys majority in Lok Sabha," he said.

The safety of numbers, however, can barely mask the problem in dealing with Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samajwadi Party: past masters at extracting full returns for their support. The two parties have been upping their ante after Mamata Banerjee withdrew the support of 19 Trinamool MPs, and can be expected to fully leverage UPA's heightened dependence on them.

Announcing the decision in the morning, DMK chief M Karunanidhi had kept the door ajar for reconciliation, saying he would return to the UPA fold if the Manmohan Singh government got Parliament to adopt by Thursday a toughly worded resolution slamming Sri Lanka for human rights violations of Tamils in the island country.

Although the government promptly started consultations with other parties to explore the possibility of the two Houses adopting an anti-Sri Lanka resolution, the outcome of its efforts looked uncertain largely because of BJP's opposition. Such resolutions have to be unanimous in order to carry weight.

The recognition was perhaps why DMK sought an appointment with President Mukherjee to convey to him the decision announced in the morning by party boss Karunanidhi.

DMK has one Cabinet minister and four ministers of state in the government who are expected to submit their resignations to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday.

TOI had on Tuesday reported that ties between Congress and DMK were precariously poised after a team of senior Congress ministers met Karunanidhi at his Chennai residence to discuss his demands. Less than 24 hours later, Karunanidhi hurriedly called a press meet at his party headquarters to announce that he was walking out of the alliance.

He said, "When a situation has been created that will not benefit Eelam Tamils, it will be a big harm to the Tamil race for DMK to continue in government, (therefore) it has been has been decided that DMK will withdraw from the Cabinet and the coalition."

The DMK patriarch said he had urged the Centre to work on introducing tougher amendments in a US-backed resolution against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC, but the clauses had instead been watered down. "Government of India did not even consider amendments proposed by DMK," he said, adding his party's continuance in the Union government under such circumstances would be "a grave injustice" to the Tamil cause. "Hence, we have decided to pull out of the government and the UPA."

He did not rule out the possibility of a last-minute rapprochement provided the government secured from Parliament a harshly-worded resolution condemning Sri Lanka. "We are ready to change our opinion. We have time till the vote at UNHRC (now scheduled for March 22) in Geneva. Before that, if the resolution is introduced in Parliament as desired by us, we are ready to change our opinion (of withdrawal of support)," he said.

Chidambaram told reporters that Congress leadership had decided to work to bring around other parties to support the resolution being insisted upon by DMK. Congress sources said the finance minister has been tasked with drafting a resolution which could meet Karunanidhi's demand without risking foreign policy goals.

However, the effort soon hit a snag because of misgivings within Congress over taking a posture against Sri Lanka which would contradict the country's stand against outside interference in internal affairs of countries, and because of BJP's refusal to play ball. The principal opposition said it was opposed to adopting a resolution targeting a particular country only for the sake of political expediency.

The BJP also said the phraseology being demanded by DMK will give a handle to India-baiters to corner the country on the issue of J&K in international fora.

DMK has demanded that the resolution in Parliament should declare that "genocide and war crimes had been committed and inflicted" on the Tamils. The party also wants Parliament to demand "establishment of a credible and independent international commission of investigation in a time bound manner into the allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations".

In the morning, Karunanidhi's announcement of the pullout was greeted by cheering cadre who set off fireworks in front of Anna Arivalayam, the party office.

The DMK chief's decision is seen as a calculated gamble aimed at assuaging Tamil sentiment over the excesses committed during the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It is also intended to distance the DMK from the impact of anti-incumbency before the 2014 general elections. It has come at a time when protests and demonstrations against Sri Lanka have taken centrestage on campuses across Tamil Nadu.

Congress leadership's misgivings at acquiescing into the tough condition was evident on Monday evening itself when a marathon meeting between three representatives of Congress — Chidambaram, defence minister A K Antony and health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad — and Karunanidhi and his colleagues failed to resolve the deadlock.

DMK had initially focused on asking the government to take a hard line against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC later this week. However, it changed tack to push for a parliamentary resolution after realizing that the resolution moved by the US fell far short of its expectations.

Courtesy: TOI