The withdrawal of the DMK from the UPA II coalition appears a repeat of the party’s action in 2004. Then it withdrew from the A B Vajpayee government at the end of the term.
This move would provide the party the option to build new formations for the upcoming national elections.
The exploring of options is understandable. The performance of the UPA II is not flattering. With persistent high inflation, huge budget deficits, depreciating rupee, steep decline in economic growth and both investments and savings declining, the prospects for the Congress-led coalition at the hustings do not appear bright. M Karunanidhi, a veteran politician, should have weighed the pros and cons of continuing in the cabinet before making this final call.
The Sri Lankan issue is only a ruse. True, Sri Lankan Tamils have been second citizens in the island nation. True, the promised devolution of power to the Northern provinces has not taken place. True, successive Sri Lankan governments have been meting out a raw deal to the Tamils. Also, the Tamils have suffered during the three-decade long civil war spearheaded by the LTTE. The LTTE had been ruthless in eliminating leaders, administering the northern parts by force which threatened the unity of Sri Lanka. Little wonder, Sri Lankan government had to eliminate him in a no-holds-barred fight to finish.
For years, the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu have been fence sitters. When in power they never took a clear stand. Only after the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora persuaded the UN Human Rights Council to look into the denial of rights to Tamils, to the humongous losses suffered by the Tamils during the conflict and to the slow pace of rehabilitation and reconstruction, major political parties in Tamil Nadu woke up. While the Tamils in Sri Lanka need the support of India, we should not forget the equally weighty issue of integrity of an independent nation.
A disturbing development relates to regional parties and states making strident voices on issues like external relations that have largely been in the domain of the Central government. The Tamil Nadu legislators passed a resolution in the Assembly demanding the Central government to adopt a certain line of approach at the UN. With the increasing power of regional parties, such a tendency is bound to impact India’s foreign policy. Already India’s relations with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives have not been great. Sri Lanka is a significant trading partner. China is making deep inroads extending massive support for building Sri Lankan infrastructure. China also has great influence in Pakistan and Myanmar. India’s centuries-old close relations with Sri Lanka need to be nurtured to mutual benefit. In this, diplomacy, and not sabre-rattling, should have primacy.
The exit of DMK has reduced the strength of UPA II by eighteen. The government will now survive only on support by parties outside the coalition, notably Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. Though at present both the parties do not seem to be in a hurry to face elections, they are bound to demand their pound of flesh for extending the crucial support. It’s not going to be an easy walk.
In politics there are no permanent friends nor permanent enemies. Interestingly, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath is attempting to build bridges with the mercurial Mamata Banerjee. The TMC suffered reverses in the recent assembly by-polls and Banerjee seems to have realised the danger involved in three-cornered fights that would benefit the Left Front. It has also to tackle the state’s precarious financial condition. It makes sense to woo the Congress at the Centre for reliefs. Look at the sobriety with which she has posted in her Face Book page:“…Our party follows a policy that we should not interfere into issues involving external relations… We leave it for the Central government to decide on such issues. However, the concerns of the state and the sentiments of the people should be kept in view of the Centre before taking any decision pertaining to foreign country.” That’s the same Banerjee who bitterly criticised the Indian policy on the eve of Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh last year that de-railed the agreement of sharing of Teesta waters.
Floor leaders of the Congress in the Lok Sabha would of course be active to ensure the survival of the UPA II government till the polls scheduled for next year. But in that process an already lame duck government suffering serious paralysis of action is being pushed further into inactivity by the conflicting demands of the parties in opposition.
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