By Nirendra Dev
New Delhi: Notwithstanding the fact that both the BJP and the Congress have been singing laurels for M Karunanidhi in last few days, a look back at the DMK patriarch’s political legacy shows he had strong political differences with both national parties in his distinguished career.
Old timers following Tamil Nadu politics say, at one point – the growing ‘perception’ of LTTE’s alleged “nexus” with DMK cadres forced Chandrasekhar government to dismiss Karunanidhi ministry in 1991 – “at the behest of Congress under Rajiv Gandhi”.
Six years later in 1997, the Congress withdrew support when the I K Gujral-led United Front declined to dump its key constituent DMK.
In 1999 – in yet another interesting turn of events – DMK leaders did not spare their long time friends, the Communists too.
Participating in the debate on trial of strength by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, DMK leader Murasoli Maran (now deceased) has said in the Lok Sabha: “Left has left us in the lurch”.
DMK’s complaint was on the Congress and other regional forces agreeing to ally with the AIADMK under J Jayalalithaa.
“Instead of supporting the mother of corruption, we will support Atalji,” the Late Maran had said.
He later joined the Vajpayee cabinet and was Commerce Minister.
The Congress leaders were ‘furious’ in 1997 on reports of DMK cadres-nexus-with LTTE in the context of assassination of Rajiv Gandhi vis-a-vis the Jain Commission report.
Justice Milap Chand Jain presented his 17-volume interim report on Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination to Home Minister Indrajit Gupta on August 28, 1997.
The 5,280 page report in fact held the DMK responsible for abetting Rajiv Gandhi’s murderers, according to highly talked about cover story of popular news magazine ‘India Today’.
In fact, on November 29, 1997, about an hour after the Congress “withdrew support” to the United Front government, the then Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral submitted his resignation.
But DMK’s bonhomie with the BJP also was marred with serious skirmishes.
In fact, in 2007 – as many as four years after the DMK quit the NDA, Karunanidhi took potshots at the BJP over Ram Sethu issue and virtually mocked at the epic character Lord Rama and had said at a function in Erode – “Who is Rama ? In which engineering college did he study and become a civil engineer? When did he build this so-called bridge? Is there any evidence for this?”
Prior to that during the height of Ram Temple movement and L K Advani’s Rath Yatra; Late Karunandihi was among the ‘first regionalist leader’ who had counselled the then Prime Minister V P Singh and UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to “act firm”. His advice was stop the Rath Yatra – at a time when even CPI-M veteran Jyoti Basu had met Advani and requested him to withdraw the Rath Yatra.
At later stage, on December 20, 2003 – Karunanidhi announced DMK pulling out of the Vajpayee government over the issue of Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).
Karunanidhi’s decision was guided by “pressure from DMK district chiefs” in crystal clear terms that the party would lose the Muslim and Christian votes especially in Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts due to POTA and DMK’s link with the BJP.
Subsequently after a month, DMK also quit the NDA and Dr Manmohan Singh flew to Chennai as Ms Sonia Gandhi’s special emissary to meet him.
The DMK swept the Lok Sabha polls of 2004 and emerged a key constituent of the Manmohan Singh government and among others A Raja (Telecom Minister) particularly stole all the limelight.