Amma’s emphatic wins in bypolls leave the old man angry and bitter.
One year ago, when the UPA alliance was trying to form a government, the DMK chief M. Karunanidhi initially claimed his party will support a Congress ministry from outside.* Later, however, it transpired that the DMK was holding up the formation of the cabinet.¤ Finally, Karunanidhi came out of his shell and complained to the media that his party was being denied key ministries. These ministries, he said, had been promised to the DMK according to an hitherto secret agreeement he had signed with the Congress. (He even displayed the document to assembled media personnel).† Poor Sonia Gandhi‡ had a tough time accommodating Karunanidhi’s demands and eventually 12 ministers from the state made it to the Union Cabinet. Other UPA constituents were not so lucky. Those that could not match their greed with numbers had to make sacrifices and many of their ministers made history by getting sworn in without portfolios.
This is how Karunanidhi behaves when he wins. And, that was not an ordinary win; he and his allies had won all 39 Lok Sabha seats. So, imagine how he would behave when he loses. The recent losses in the Gummidipoondi and Kanchipuram bypolls have presented an opportunity. The Hindu reports:
Misuse of Official Machinery: Karunanidhi
The DMK president, M. Karunanidhi, said that everyone knew that the byelection victories were achieved through distribution of cash, contravention of the model code of conduct, and misuse of the official machinery.
The New Indian Express reports:
Money Power Won: DMK
DMK president M Karunanidhi… charged that the AIADMK had managed to secure a victory in the Kancheepuram and Gummidipoondi Assembly by-election only through money power. In a statement indirectly accusing the Election Commission of failing to check the distribution of money by the AIADMK, Karunanidhi alleged that the AIADMK had “hoodwinked” the EC and spent huge amounts of government money to create facilities in the two constituencies. Hinting at a conspiracy between the EC and the AIADMK, he said, “the agreement was that you (Election Commission) pretend to beat me (AIADMK), I will pretend to cry and get things done.”
For the bypolls, Karunanidhi had formed a 7-party against the lone AIADMK. Karunanidhi’s son M.K. Stalin was in charge of the party’s campaign. Central ministers from the state took part in the campaign. Karunanidhi claimed that the byelections presented a fight between democracy and authoritarianism and it was for the people to decide which of the two should prevail. Apparently and unfortunately for him, the people chose “authoritarianism.”
In fairness, it must said that people usually elect the ruling party candidates during bypolls, as people will have to live with the current dispensation until its term runs out. The bypolls were necessitated by the deaths of AIADMK candidates and it must have been unreasonable to expect a voter backlash against the AIADMK. As Jayalalithaa had noted, the 12 ministers in the UPA government have done very little for the state. DMK has also failed to use its influence the Congress to resolve the Kaveri issue. The elections could have been a report card on the performance of the DMK and its partners in the central government rather than a judgement on the AIADMK’s performance. A veteran leader like Mr. Karunanidhi should have had the intellectual honesty to know this and the decency to accept defeat. Sadly, the old gent has a small brain and a smaller heart. And, hence, he throws up a tantrum like a baby and accuses the people of giving in to the “money power” and “muscle power” of the AIADMK. This was exactly how he behaved after his controversial midnight arrest. He hoped the state would erupt in an orgy of violent protests. When that did not happen, he called the people of Tamil Nadu names and accused them of lacking intelligence and self-respect.
* – DMK Promises Outside Support – The Hindu (16/05/04)
He [Mr. Karunanidhi] did not agree with a proposition that the DMK was offering conditional support and chided a reporter for suggesting that he was bargaining for more. “If you had known me, you will not ask this question,” he said.
¤ – DMK Ministers Not To Take Charge – The Hindu (24/05/04)
In a late night development, the seven Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Union Ministers decided not to assume office. The DMK chief, M. Karunanidhi, said in a statement that this was because the portfolios allocated to the party did not match those in the agreement signed by the DMK and the Congress. “Until the mistakes are sorted out, the DMK MPs will not take charge of any ministerial positions,” the statement said.
† – Accord On Portfolios Not Honoured: Karunanidhi – The Hindu (25/05/04)
At a crowded press conference today, Mr. Karunanidhi showed a copy of the agreement that he had signed with Congress leader Janardhana Reddy. According to the agreement, the Ministry of Surface Transport, including the Departments of Shipping and Highways, was to have been allocated to T.R. Baalu. Also, S.S. Palanimanickam was to take charge as the Minister of State for Finance (with the charge of the Revenue Department). S. Regupathy was to get charge of the Personnel Department and Internal Security as the Union Minister of State for Home. The charge of Shipping, Finance and Personnel Departments were not given to the DMK despite the agreement, Mr. Karunanidhi said and added that he was pained over the development.
‡ – DMK Fires The Sulk Shot, Wants Better Portfolios – Economic Times (26/05/04)
In the process, the DMK chief made public a worst kept secret of the Capital – the prime ministerial prerogative of portfolio distribution was handled by people close to Ms. Gandhi and that Mr Singh had little role in it.