Tamil Nadu, Indian politics and elections

Election 1999

Coalitions of Convenience

Parvathi Muthuraman

TAMIL TRIBUNE. August 1999 (ID. 1999-08-01)
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(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a well researched, lengthy article. Those who do not read Tamil Nadu newspapers daily will find it a gold mine of information. Even those who keep up with Tamil Nadu news will find many nuggets of little known anecdotes and facts. Ms. Parvathi Muthuraman's knowledge of Tamil Nadu politics is almost encyclopedic.)

Abbreviations

AIADMK - All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

BJP - Bharatiya Janata Party

CPI - Communist Party of India

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

MDMK - Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

MP - Member of Parliament

PMK - Pattali Makkal Katchi

TMC - Tamil Maanila Congress

TPMK - Tamil Pattali Makkal Katchi

TRC - Tamil Nadu Rajiv Congress

Glossary of Key Politicians in Tamil Nadu:

Jayalalitha - General Secretary, AIADMK

Karunanidhi - President, DMK

Moopanar - President, TMC

Ramadoss - President, PMK

Subramaniam Swamy - President, Janata Party

Theeran - President, TPMK

Vaiko - General Secretary, MDMK

OUTLINE

1. Introduction

2. Natural Allies at Loggerhead

2.1 DMK and AIADMK

2.2 Congress Parties

3. Marriages of Convenience

4. Pondicherry Drama Exposes It All

5. Political Analysis and Assessment

5.1 DMK (Karunanidhi)

5.2 AIADMK (Jayalalitha)

5.3 BJP (no notable leader in Tamil Nadu)

5.4 Congress(I) (no notable leader in Tamil Nadu)

5.5 TMC (Moopanar)

5.6 MDMK (Vaiko)

5.7 PMK (Ramadoss)

5.8 TPMK (Theeran)

5.9 Janata Party (Subramaniam Swamy)

6. Closure

1. INTRODUCTION

When there are more than two dominant political parties in an election, coalitions and alliances become more or less a necessity. Such is the case in Tamil Nadu politics today. In order for voters to make logical choices, coalitions should be based on shared policies, philosophies and principles. This is not to say that coalition partners should see eye to eye on every issue. But there should be sufficient common ground in major areas of concern and no diametrically opposite views. A common basis for governing can then be arrived on the basis of the shared ground in the major areas, and the gray areas of disagreement on secondary issues could be left for future governments to tackle.

2. NATURAL ALLIES AT LOGGERHEAD

There are a few pairs or groups of natural allies in Tamilnadu politics today because of their shared values and goals. Unfortunately these parties are competing against each other for votes than joining together and trying to achieve their shared goals.

2.1 DMK and AIADMK

DMK and AIADMK would be great coalition partners (MDMK and PMK could also be included here) because their core values are the same, whether it is on Hindi-imposition or on autonomy for states or on myriad other issues of concern to Tamil Nadu. In fact, M.G. Ramachandran split from DMK and formed AIADMK because of personal differences with Karunanidhi (DMK), and not because of any policy differences. But for their personal loyalty to Karunanidhi (DMK) or Jayalalitha (AIADMK), a member or leader of DMK could easily switch over to AIADMK and vice versa without compromising their basic political values. However, instead of allying together and trying to achieve their common goals, they have allied with parties whose basic policies are different and even diametrically opposite on many issues (DMK with BJP, and AIADMK with Congress(I)). Why?

DMK and AIADMK will never ally together in elections as long as they have more or less equal strength in Tamil Nadu, because there can be only one chief minister for Tamil Nadu and neither Karunanidhi nor Jayalaltha will concede it to the other voluntarily. If, however, either DMK or AIADMK were to lose their voter base substantially and can no longer expect to take on the other on equal footing, then there could be a coalition of the two, with the much weaker party conceding the chief minister post to the other. Look at MDMK. General Secretary Vaiko knows very well that he has no chance of becoming the chief minister in the next few years at least, and so his party tags along with AIADMK or DMK.

2.2 Congress Parties

Congress(I), TMC and TRC are clone parties when it comes to their basic values. The latter two split from Congress(I) because of personal differences rather than of policy differences. Ramamurthy (TRC) split from Congress(I) because he could not get the top party post in Tamil Nadu. Moopanar (TMC) quarreled with Congress(I) leadership and started TMC because he wanted to become Tamil Nadu chief minister sooner or later. He objected to Congress(I)'s alliance with AIADMK or DMK because if such an alliance were to win in state assembly elections, it would be the Dravidian party (that is, DMK or AIADMK) that would get the chief minister post and he would be left in the cold. This was his reason for forming TMC. Even today, he wants very much to ally with Congress(I). If such an alliance were to win the next state assembly election, then he would be the chief minister. Alas, but Congress did not want him even though he virtually camped in front of Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi's house like an abandoned pet dog waiting in front of its former mistress' door hoping that it would be let in again. Now Moopanar (TMC) has formed a third front and will fight the Congress(I) even though TMC's policies are almost identical to Congress(I); another example of natural allies at loggerhead.

3. MARRIAGES OF CONVENIENCE

Foreigners living in many European and North American countries illegally (with out proper visas) have a way of getting permission to live and work in those countries legally by marrying a citizen of the country. There are some citizens who would marry an illegal immigrant in exchange for money. Once they are married they would go their separate ways and get a divorce in a short time. The underlying reason for such marriages of convenience is not love, family life, togetherness, procreation or other traditional reasons for marriage but to legalize their life and work in the country.

The current coalitions of convenience in Tamil Nadu are of the same vein. These coalition arrangements are not made for the traditional reasons of achieving stated party goals and serving the people. Instead, the one and only goal of political parties forming coalitions is to come to power one way or other.

This explains why DMK and AIADMK were unable to achieve anything important from their election manifestos and party platforms when they were key partners in coalition governments of India. DMK was in power as a key member of the United Front government. Two of the principal goals of the party were stopping Hindi imposition and autonomy for states. What happened during the United Front government? Nothing. Hindi imposition continued. States did not get any additional powers. Why was that DMK unable to get anything? Because it was in partnership with parties which are for Hindi imposition and are for a stronger central government (not autonomy for states). This shows why we are opposed to coalitions of convenience.

Similarly AIADMK was unable to achieve anything on Hindi-imposition or state autonomy though it was an indispensable partner in the BJP-coalition government (1998-1999). Reason? Whatever they may say, BJP is opposed to these two issues and will not compromise on them.

4. PONDICHERRY DRAMA EXPOSES IT ALL

The tiny Tamil state of Pondicherry is adjacent to Tamil Nadu. The political drama unfolding there strips stark naked the opportunistic alliances of the coalitions of convenience. The state is ruled by a coalition consisting of DMK, TMC and CPI. Until recently DMK, TMC and CPI were allies in Tamil Nadu also. Now TMC is opposed to DMK and has its own so-called "third front" in Tamil Nadu. CPI is now allied with AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. But, as of this writing, the DMK-TMC-CPI coalition continues in Pondicherry, though it has been more than a month these parties have parted way in Tamil Nadu. How can TMC and CPI support DMK in Pondicherry but not in Tamil Nadu? This illustrates the utter bankruptcy of the political process. (As the parliamentary election campaign heats up and parties say nasty things against each other, the Pondicherry coalition may collapse.)

5. POLITICAL ANALYSIS AND ASSESSMENT

Let us look at the major (and a couple of minor) players in Tamil Nadu politics today.

5.1 DMK (Karunanidhi)

DMK abandoned its United Front allies and joined with BJP to fill the vacuum created by AIADMK breaking up with BJP. None of the former DMK allies are in this camp now.

Only a few months ago Karunanidhi (DMK) was saying that BJP is a communal party and minorities are not safe under their rule. Now he is saying that BJP is no longer communal and that minorities have nothing to fear from BJP. Nothing changed with BJP, only thing that changed is that DMK is tagging along with BJP now. What a hypocrisy? "My enemy's enemy is my friend" is the underlying reason for DMK's change of stance. Now that BJP is Jayalalitha's enemy (allies just a few months ago), Karunanidhi will be BJP's friend!

DMK fears that religious minorities in Tamil Nadu may walk out on it and vote for its opponents because of its alliance with BJP. During a recent meeting with minorities, Maran (Karunanidhi's nephew and a senior DMK leader) was almost apologetic for hooking up with BJP. He said that Congress(I) treats DMK shabbily and so it has no alternative but to ally with BJP. Is this reason enough to sell out all its core policies and join with BJP? Maran's statement seems to be a virtual admission that DMK will ally with anybody to continue governing Tamil Nadu and get a few cabinet posts in the Indian government.

What are Karunanidhi's short-term goals? Continuation of the DMK government in Tamil Nadu and power sharing in the Indian central government. What are his long-term goals? Pass on the Tamil Nadu chief minister position to his son Stalin (presently mayor of Chennai) in due course, may be a phased out transition from father to son, with his nephew Maran succeeding Karunanidhi and after a brief period pass on the power to Stalin. It is akin to royal succession. If the crown prince is too young, the king's brother governs for a few years until the crown prince is acceptable to ascend to the throne. This is not necessarily a statement against Maran or Stalin. We know of Karunanidhi's deep love for Tamil and the sacrifices he had made for Tamil in his youth. Maran and Stalin are said to be good administrators (as an Indian government minister and the mayor of Chennai, respectively) but they were never active on the Tamil front and their commitment to the Tamil causes is still not evident.

5.2 AIADMK (Jayalalitha)

AIADMK snapped its ties with BJP and is now in the Congress(I) camp. All its previous allies have gone with the BJP.

Just a few months ago, Jayalalitha said that Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi (Italian-born wife of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi) is not acceptable as prime minister because she is a foreigner. Now she is allied with Congress(I) knowing well that a Congress(I) win would mean Sonia as prime minister. What changed? Sonia is Italian-born; it cannot be changed. What changed is Jayalalitha's mindset. Her former ally BJP was unable or unwilling to help her evade the various court cases arising out of alleged corruption when she was Tamil Nadu chief minister. May be Sonia would pull her out of trouble if Jayalalitha's support becomes crucial for Sonia to ascend to the throne of India in which her husband, mother-in-law and mother-in-law's father sat for so many years. Jayalalitha's decisions seem to be based on how to get out of all those corruption cases.

No one really wants Jayalalitha as an ally because of her frequent immature temper tantrums during her alliance with BJP. She was forced to allocate 25% of the seats (12 seats) to Congress(I) although Congress(I) lost deposit in every seat it contested during the 1998 election and does not deserve more than a seat or two. In fact Jayalalitha told Congress(I) leaders so when they approached her before the 1998 elections. Then there was BJP ardently courting her. This time around there was no eligible suitors and Jayalalitha had to cough up 12 seats for a party that is a spent force in Tamil Nadu.

Jayalalitha's short-term goals? Somehow get the support of the next Indian government and pray that it would pull her out of those corruption cases. Long term goals? If she was found guilty in any of the corruption cases and sent to jail, that could be the end of the most extravagant and glamorous political figure in Tamil Nadu. If found not guilty, will she continue in politics? Surely a "not guilty" verdict would give her momentum in front of the electorate in the next election. There are also rumors circulating for a few years that she wants to leave India and possibly live in America. According to some charges, she has accumulated assets not only in Tamil Nadu but also in some foreign countries including America.

5.3 BJP (No notable leader in Tamil Nadu)

Following Jayalalitha's (AIADMK) withdrawal from the BJP coalition, precipitating the fall of the BJP government and the 1999 election, Karunanidhi (DMK) rushed in to fill the vacancy. Except for AIADMK, all other former partners of the alliance are intact in Tamil Nadu.

A few months ago BJP used Indian government machinery in an attempt to dismantle the special courts that the Tamil Nadu government (of DMK) set up to try Jayalalitha on a variety of corruption charges. Immediately after Jayalalitha broke off from BJP, some Tamil Nadu BJP leaders urged the Indian government to stay out of the special courts. As long as Jayalalitha was supporting the BJP government it was procrastinating in helping the Tamil Nadu government in investigating corruption charges involving foreign exchange dealings and assets accumulation in foreign countries. Now that Jayalalitha had withdrawn support to the government, such investigations seem to be proceeding more expeditiously. The message is, "if you help us we will use the government machinery to help you, if you cross us we will use government machinery to hurt you", so much for independence of judiciary and noninterference of elected officials in the judicial system.

BJP used to make frequent statements about the deterioration of law and order in Tamil Nadu under DMK rule. Now, being allied with DMK, we do not hear a peep out of BJP leaders in this regard. Oh, so much for law and order!

Let us examine BJP attempts to establish a foothold in Tamil Nadu. By 1998 BJP leaders had concluded that they could not put together a majority in parliament with only the northern states. It needed members of parliament (MPs) from the south also. BJP did not, and even today does not, much support in Tamil Nadu. If it were to contest on its own it would lose every parliamentary seat in Tamil Nadu. It needed a powerful ally in Tamil Nadu to push it through but the powerful Dravidian parties (DMK, AIADMK) considered it the ultimate Aryan party and would not touch it. After the 1996 elections BJP leaders approached DMK for support in forming government. First request came through a circuitous way. A BJP supporter, Hindi movie actor, phoned Rajnikanth, a superstar in Tamil as well as Hindi movies, and asked him to persuade DMK to support BJP. Though Rajnikanth campaigned for the then DMK-TMC alliance and thus had some clout with DMK, he was not willing. Then DMK was approached through other intermediaries. DMK refused.

Fortune struck in 1998 when the Jayalalitha (AIADMK) decided to ally with BJP. Her fortunes were down then and she wanted an ally in New Delhi. When Jayalalitha withdrew her support in 1999, BJP needed the support of the other Dravidian powerhouse, the DMK. The once untouchable BJP had become acceptable by now. Power attracts friends. This time Karunanidhi (DMK) rushed in to ally with BJP although BJP would not bring too many votes to the alliance. What DMK needed was a powerful ally in New Delhi.

What are BJP's near-term goals in Tamil Nadu? Win enough seats for the BJP-DMK-MDMK-PMK alliance, sufficient to form the Indian government again and push through its agenda. Long-term goals in Tamil Nadu? Get a strong foothold in Tamil Nadu, possibly as strong as Congress(I) was in the 1980s. Remember, in the 1970s and 1980s Congress(I) had a strong voter base in Tamil Nadu but still it needed either the DMK or the AIADMK to put it over the top. BJP is far from reaching that level of vote bank. Will it ever?

5.4 Congress(I) (No notable leader in Tamil Nadu)

The parent party of Congress(I), the Congress Party, had an iron grip in Tamil Nadu politics until the 1967. The 1965 anti-Hindi imposition agitation that rocked Tamil Nadu for a few weeks in January-February 1965 and the brutal manner in which the Indian government (Congress government) suppressed it killing more than 60 unarmed Tamils and maiming many more for life put an end to Congress rule in Tamil Nadu in the 1967 election. It was downhill from then on. Indira Gandhi (mother-in-law of Sonia Gandhi) split Congress and founded Congress(I) [I stands for Indira] in 1969 and its strength fell even further in Tamil Nadu. Though it could not expect to win in Tamil Nadu on its own, it had a substantial voter base, and DMK and AIADMK vied to ally with it offering two-thirds of parliamentary seats to it. Then Moopanar split from Congress(I) and formed TMC, and it left Congress(I) as no more than an empty shell. It is a spent force with very little support in Tamil Nadu. It went alone in the 1998 election and lost deposit in every constituency it contested. It has to ally with someone. Since DMK went along with BJP, it had to settle with Jayalalitha, although the two ladies at the top of these parties do not seem to like each other.

Until a few months ago Congress(I) leaders had made occasional references to the corruption charges against Jayalalitha. Soon after the alliance with AIADMK materialized their tune changed. Recently the Tamil Nadu Congress(I) President stated that corruption is a local matter (and, by implication, that it is alright to ally with corrupt politicians in national (parliamentary) elections). It is to say that it is all right for corrupt politicians to form the central government of India but it is wrong for them to form the much less powerful state governments. Does he really think that people will buy such ridiculous logic? But, again, what logic and rationality have to do with politics?

Why did Congress(I) allied with AIADMK and not TMC, although the latter is its soul mate and TMC leader Moopanar is a faithful servant of the Nehru family (Sonia Gandhi family) and was pleading her to ally with TMC? Numbers, numbers, numbers! Congress(I) has calculated that a Congress(I)-AIADMK alliance will get more seats than a Congress(I)-TMC alliance. If Jayalalitha can bring in more votes, kick out the loyal Moopanar and romance the untrustworthy Jayalaltha. What matters is coming to power at any cost; and not loyalty, principles or public service!

Congress(I)'s short term goals are to get as many MPs for its alliance in Tamil Nadu as possible and reestablish the Nehru dynasty in India. Long term goals in Tamil Nadu? It knows that it could never reach its preeminence of the 1950s and 1960s (until 1967). It would very much like to reemerge to its level in the 1970s and 1980s when it was able to bargain as almost an equal with DMK and AIADMK. It is a tall order. Only possibility of reaching it (if at all) is if TMC merges with Congress(I). Unfortunately for Congress(I), Moopanar is not inclined to merge with it. If TMC were to do very poorly in the coming elections, Moopanar may change his mind. Let us wait and see.

5.5 TMC (Moopanar)

The DMK-TMC alliance of the past few years was never smooth. TMC broke off its alliance with DMK earlier this year when the latter joined hands with BJP. It refused to ally with Congress(I) because of the latter's alliance with AIADMK. It has put together a number of smaller parties and formed the "third front".

Unlike every other party we discussed so far and those we will discuss later in this article, TMC did not make any somersaults. TMC said all along that BJP is a religious (Hindu) extremist party and continues to say so and refuses to ally with it. TMC also has stated for the last few years and continues to state that it would not ally with AIADMK because Jayalalitha is corrupt. Thus TMC is consistent in these matters and we should commend TMC leader Moopanar for that. But, having said that, Moopanar is not all that Pollyanna. He says that TMC would not join hands with AIADMK because its leader Jayalalitha is corrupt but was ready and willing to ally with Congress(I). Congress(I) is associated with many corruption scandals including the notorious Bofors scandal involving weapons purchase in Europe. Alleged kickbacks in Bofor scandal alone dwarfs all of alleged Jayalalitha's corrupt transactions involving land deals, television purchases, coal imports, etc. etc. So the underlying reason for TMC's aversion to Jayalalitha seems to be one of personal reasons (Moopanar's quest for Tamil Nadu chief minister post) than principles.

What are TMC's short-term goals? Become a coalition partner in the next Indian government. In spite of Congress(I) rebuffing TMC, Moopanar may not hesitate to throw in TMC's support to Congress(I) if it needs a few MPs to prove majority in the parliament to form the next government.

Long-term goals of Moopanar? Improve TMC's support in Tamil Nadu and one day become Tamil Nadu chief minister. He is hungering for it for years now. He would have a hard time succeeding as long as DMK and AIADMK keep up their current strength.

5.6 MDMK (Vaiko)

Vaiko (formerly known as V. Gopalaswamy) was active in anti-Hindi imposition and other pro-Tamil activities starting from his student days back in the 1960s. After entering full time into politics, he quickly rose through the ranks in DMK. He had an ardent following among certain sections of DMK cadres, particularly the youth. In 1994, Karunanidhi expelled him from the party alleging that he was plotting to assassinate Karunanidhi. (Couple of years later, when questioned under oath, Karunanidhi told the Jain commission that Vaiko would never do that. Then what was the real reason for expelling him?) Vaiko formed MDMK and brought along with him his supporters from DMK.

MDMK's first try in the elections (on its own) was a disaster. Could not win even a single. He learned his lesson. He needs to ally with a powerful party. Though his vision of a Dravidian party is almost diametrically opposite to that of Jayalalitha's, he allied with AIADMK. This is an opportunistic alliance, nothing more. The alliance paid him a hefty dividend. His party won a few seats in the 1998 parliamentary election and became a key member of the BJP coalition government. During the frequent "disputes" between Jayalalitha and BJP, he quietly sided with BJP. When Jayalalitha finally pulled the rug under the BJP government, Vaiko stood fast with BJP and that ended the honeymoon between AIADMK and MDMK. Vaiko became a trusted ally of BJP in Tamil Nadu. Even when BJP formed an alliance with Karunanidhi, the man who expelled Vaiko from DMK 1n 1994, Vaiko did not flinch. He stood with BJP and joined the DMK-BJP alliance.

Why does Vaiko stand steadfast with BJP although BJP is, by any measure, an "Aryan party" and MDMK, by any measure, is the staunchest "Dravidian party", more of a Dravidian party than DMK or AIADMK? I wish I could get into Vaiko's head and pull out his reasons. It could be that he calculates that alliance with BJP is good to build up MDMK. But this does not fit with ground realities, BJP has very little support in Tamil Nadu and it adds very little to MDMK. Could there be another reason? Vaiko has always been a supporter of the Tamil Eelam cause. It could be that he expects the Indian government under BJP to act favorably towards the cause. (This could also explain why another Tamil Eelam supporter, Ramadoss of PMK, also stands with BJP.) The rank and file of MDMK and PMK also might stomach this alliance with the "Aryan party" in view of this. However we have not seen any positive developments in this regard during the past one year or so of BJP rule. Unless Vaiko and Ramadoss could show something soon, they may get restive.

While Vaiko's support for BJP has not changed, he did a somersault with respect to DMK. Until recently he was saying that the DMK government of Tamil Nadu should resign. Now he says that MDMK would not allow anyone to bring down the DMK government. When reporters asked about Karunanidhi accusing him of plotting to murder him and expelling him from the party, Vaiko brushed it aside as if it was nothing. About his split from DMK, he said that, "it is like the estranged son going away from father's house (DMK) to set up separate household (MDMK)". It is not that simple. The father accused the son of planning murder, a very serious charge! Now everything between Karunanidhi and Vaiko seems to be sugary. Karunanidhi even went to dinner at Vaiko's house. I wonder if Karunanidhi took along a food-taster to make sure that Vaiko was not poisoning him!

Vaiko's somersault is even more interesting when it comes to Jayalalitha. He often praised Jayalalitha and swore by their friendship and alliance. After the breakup with her he said, "It burned my heart to be allied with her; it pained me at night". Then why did he not break up sooner? Why wait until she broke up with BJP?

What are MDMK's short-term goal? Success in the poll for the alliance and a few seats for his party in the parliament.

Lon-term goals? Build MDMK as the third great Tamil party, rivaling DMK and AIADMK. If AIADMK were to go to pieces after Jayalalitha, Vaiko would want to pick up as many cadres and leaders from it and become the alternative to DMK, replacing AIADMK in that role.

5.7 PMK (Ramadoss)

PMK was considered a caste-based party (Vanniyar caste) when it was founded by Ramadoss. But soon it focussed its attention on Tamil-centered issues like autonomy for states and Tamil Eelam. (In fact, among political parties, only PMK and MDMK openly stood for Tamil Eelam in the aftermath of Rajiv Gandhi assassination. The erstwhile supporters of Tamil Eelam kept silent on the issue fearing that they may somehow be blamed for Rajiv Gandhi assassination.) PMK's championing of Tamil issues endeared it to a wider voter base than its original Vanniyar base and it emerged as a solid political party.

PMK's initial entry into the elections on its own was disappointing. It did get a few state assembly seats, but much less than it hoped for. Its support was primarily in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu. Though it could not win many seats on its own, it did attract sufficient votes in many constituencies that it could tilt the balance in favor of DMK or AIADMK if it were to ally with one or the other. Just before the 1998 parliamentary elections PMK was weighing a possible alliance with DMK or AIADMK. Ramadoss used to say that PMK was the only party whose constitution would not permit membership for Brahmins, and AIADMK is headed by a Brahmin, Jayalalitha. So DMK seemed to be the obvious choice not only because of the Jayalalitha factor but also PMK is closer to DMK than AIADMK on policy matters. But DMK was arrogant at that time because of the DMK-TMC alliance's spectacular success in the previous election, and was stingy in allocating seats to other potential allies. Having thus rebuffed, Ramadoss threw PMK on Jayalalitha's side in spite of protests from some senior leaders and party cadres. His chief lieutenant Theeran quit the party in protest.

Along with AIADMK came BJP also. Thus Ramadoss was not only allying with Jayalalitha's AIADMK but also with BJP whose "who is who" list is totally Brahmins. This writer is not criticizing Ramadoss for joining with Brahmins, instead is pointing out the total hypocrisy prevailing in Tamil Nadu politics.

The reason Ramadoss gave for choosing AIADMK over DMK was interesting. He told, "Karunanidhi (DMK) is not even returning my phone calls. It is difficult to reach him. But Jayalalitha has given me her home phone and cell phone numbers and told me that I could call her anytime day or night". If this is the type of petty reasons for political alliances, God save the Tamil people! Ramadoss broke off with Jayalalitha recently and is now allied with Karunanidhi. I wonder if Ramadoss finally got Karunanidhi's home phone number before signing on to the alliance!

What are PMK's short-term goals? Same as MDMK. Success in the poll for the alliance and a few seats for his party in the parliament.

Long-term goals? Become a stronger player in Tamil Nadu politics. Surely Ramadoss would like to build it to the strength of DMK and AIADMK. If AIADMK were to falter after Jayalalitha, PMK and MDMK may vie for its cadres and leaders to build up their respective parties.

As one who wishes PMK and MDMK well because of some of their Tamil-centered policies, it would be a good idea for PMK and MDMK to merge. But I know that it will not happen, not because of policy differences, but because of the question: "Who will head the combined party? Vaiko or Ramadoss?" Both have the right to head such a party because both deserve it. Ramadoss, a newcomer to politics, built PMK from scratch, of course with the help of many. Being thrown out of DMK, Vaiko built MDMK to a respectful strength because of his energy, enthusiasm and the support of some ardent followers who left DMK to join him. A PMK-MDMK merger is a long shot. Both picking up strength on their own and allying together as an alternative to DMK is possible. It will have more to do with the developing chemistry between Vaiko and Ramadoss than anything else.

5.8 TPMK (Theeran) 

Theeran was second in command at PMK, next to the party president Ramadoss. He quit the party in 1998 protesting PMK's alliance with Jayalaltha (AIADMK). Cooperated with DMK. Formed TPMK. This new party does not seem to have much support.

The topsy-turvy turns in Tamil Nadu politics found Ramadoss (PMK) allying with DMK in 1999 and DMK eagerly welcoming him. So Theeran's TPMK left the DMK fold unceremoniously. What did Theeran do after exiting the DMK fold? The latest news as of this writing is that he met with Jayalalitha. The man who quit PMK because of its alliance with Jayalalitha is meeting with her. This event shows that even principled leaders get "corrupted" in the dirty politics of today.

What does the future hold for TPMK? It does not seem to have much following. Of course it is not going to field any candidates in the 1999 election but may support one of the alliances in Tamil Nadu. If it makes a mark by bringing sufficient number of votes to the alliance, at least in a few constituencies, it may stay afloat as a political party. If not, Theeran could merge it back with PMK or some other party. Theeran is a Tamil-centered politician. He could leave election politics and turn TPMK into a Tamil national organization like the Tamil Desiya Iyakkam (Tamil National Movement) founded by Nedumaran. In fact Tamil Desiya Iyakkam was a political party at its inception and then quit election politics because it could not garner many votes. It has become an effective organization championing Tamil causes. Theeran may go this route too. We hope that Theeran would stay in public life and serve the Tamil people.

5.9 Janata Party (Subramaniam Swamy)

Subramaniam Swamy is a maverick with no voter base anywhere but makes a lot of noise and creates media attention. Once an AIADMK leader said that its founder M. G. Ramachandran is AIADMK and without him AIADMK would be a zero. We could say that Janata Party is a zero even with its leader Subramaniam Swamy. Janata party is an empty shell with no following. Somehow Subramaniam Swamy endeared himself to Jayalalitha and got elected to the 1998 parliament. Let us truck back a little and start from where the story starts.

For whatever reason he only knows, Subramaniam Swamy appointed himself to the role of bringing justice on Jayalaltha for all her alleged corrupt dealings when she was Tamil Nadu chief minister. Against all odds he was able to get Tamil Nadu governor's permission to get a court case started against the then sitting chief minister on some corruption charges. It was the first time such proceedings were started by a private individual against a sitting chief minister in the legal history of Tamil Nadu or elsewhere in India. The case is still ongoing.

Then he made an about face and allied with Jayalalitha during the 1998 election. Though his Janata Party does not deserve a seat on the basis of its strength, Jayalalitha allotted him a seat in the 1998 election. He won because of AIADMK support. Jayalalitha lobbied BJP for a senior cabinet position for Subramaniam Swamy. It is alleged in certain sections of the press that he told her that if he was appointed justice minister or finance minister he could thwart some of the many corruption cases pending against her. Though Jayalaltha's support was indispensable for the BJP government, it refused to give Subramaniam Swamy any position at all because of some earlier dealings between him and BJP. Many in BJP were dead set against him. Unable to secure a cabinet post, he started his campaign to bring down the BJP government. His philosophy seems to be "if I cannot get a cabinet post, this government is not fit to rule".

He constantly urged Jayalaltha to withdraw her support to the BJP government. Though dissatisfied with BJP, allegedly because of its unwillingness or inability to pull her out of all those corruption cases, she was not prepared to abandon BJP until she gets another powerful ally to fall back on. So Subramaniam Swamy arranged a meeting between Jayalaltha and Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi. We do not know what transpired at that meeting but soon Jayalalitha withdrew support for BJP and it fell. When Congress(I) was unable to form a government even with Jayalalitha's support, Subramaniam Swamy tried to put together another coalition group with possibly Jayalalitha as the prime minister. There were no takers for Jayalalitha for prime minister. Since there was no party or coalition with a majority in the parliament to form government, the 1999 elections were announced. Conresss(I)-AIADMK alliance emerged, with Subramaniam Swamy part of the alliance. When seat-sharing decisions were made, Jayalaltha refused to give Subramaniam Swamy a seat. That means, Subramaniam Swamy who could hardly win a few thousand votes on his own, will have to stare at the next parliament from outside. He was outraged. He fretted and fumed. He lashed out at Jayalalitha and her friends and asked Tamil Nadu voters not to vote for AIADMK or its allies. Again, his philosophy seems to be "if the alliance does not give me a parliamentary seat, it is not fit to be elected to the parliament either". Everything is self-centered, as with virtually every politician we discuss in this article.

You must read what this Subramaniam Swamy, who was canvassing for Jayalalitha and projecting her as prime minister material only a few weeks ago, has to say now: "Jayalalitha is not her own person, but putty clay in the hands of a criminal cabal", "Jayalalitha's style of functioning is arbitrary and arrogant", and "Jayalalitha has no concept of loyalty or gratitude". Of course, Subramaniam Swamy is very loyal and grateful to Jayalalitha for getting him elected to the 1998 parliament and lobbying BJP to give him a cabinet position!

What does Subramaniam Swamy plan to do? As we said before, he may not secure even a few thousand votes if he contest the election on his own. Only choice he has, if he wants to run for parliament in 1999, is to hook up with TMC. However, welcome mat may not be waiting for him there. Not long ago Subramaniam Swamy filed corruption charges against Chidhambaram, a senior TMC leader and former finance minister. (The court found no merit to the charges.) Will he be welcomed in the TMC alliance? Anything can happen in the unprincipled Tamil Nadu politics! After all, did not Jayalalitha take him in her fold even after he filed corruption charges against her? 

6. CLOSURE

We have discussed how everyone who is anyone in Tamil Nadu politics has somersaulted, reversed course and made U-turns for the forthcoming election. Friends have become foes! Foes have become friends! The only common theme, the only underlying reason, for all these less than kosher activities is: "get political power at any cost".

RELATED ARTICLES

Election 1999: Tamils Should Vote for BJP (by N. Trivedi), TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 1999 (12 KB)

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