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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Despite hard-fought win, DMK image takes a beating


CHENNAI: The sheen of the hard-fought victory in the Lok Sabha elections in the State has faded: DMK’s tremendous show in the parliamentary elections has been relegated to the background following the party’s inability to finalise its list of representatives to the Cabinet more than a week after the win. The gains made in the elections came against seemingly insurmountable odds, especially in the Vanniyar dominated north Tamil Nadu and the acutely caste-conscious deep south. The DMK had fought the elections like it had done never before – in most places, there was hardly any dissent and there were no complaints of DMK leaders working at cross purposes from any district. Its Ministers and district secretaries worked as one unit, even if they had serious differences.

In fact, the district bosses of four northern districts where the PMK holds considerable sway – Cuddalore, Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Vellore – promised the Chief Minister that they would come back and meet him only if they managed to win the seats allocated to them. If not, they told him, he should find replacements.

Such was the dedication of senior leaders that most of them went without rest for days on end; checking and re-checking the work in each block and even the lower levels and drawing up fire-fighting plans in areas where people expressed dissatisfaction over the State government’s performance.

Many of them feel let down over the manner in which the party has conducted itself since. “We [the DMK] have been reduced to a laughing stock in Delhi. It is time we took a hard look at ourselves,” said one leader.
Tall demands

Ever since the process of formation of the new government began in New Delhi, the DMK has been at the receiving end of some nasty jokes and has been reduced to laughing stock in the media, with anchor after anchor ridiculing the party for its tall demands. The DMK’s demand for five Cabinet berths was laughed off and its subsequent demand for one Cabinet berth more than last time (last time it was three – till the Communications and Information Technology Minister Dayanidhi Maran resigned) was turned down as unacceptable.

A few party seniors wonder the source for one particular story that made headlines day after day in the media: that Senior Ministers T.R.Baalu and A.Raja were not acceptable to the Congress and the Prime Minister. Both the Prime Minister and the Congress have denied that they had placed any such demand. In fact, a few Congress leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Vyalar Ravi, are on record saying that it is the prerogative of the party who it nominates to the Cabinet.

“The entire press corps will not run the same story unless someone fairly senior spoke to each one of them. I think our party will have to find out who this person is and which party he or she belongs to,” said a leader.

Representatives of a few other political parties felt that the second term of the United Progressive Alliance Government has got off on a wrong note, only because of the DMK. “Only they can mess it up so badly after such a huge victory. It’s the DMK’s bane,” said a CPI (M) party leader.

Ironically, it was DMK that formed the nucleus for the formation of the UPA ahead of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. They feel that the DMK Ministers in the Cabinet and its Ministers of State will have their hands full for an extended period of time – initially to prove to the Prime Minister, the Congress and its allies that they can deliver, and second, to prove to the sceptical voter and the country that the initial hiccups were mere markers that any small party will have to set to dictate the terms of engagement over the longer term.

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