By deciding to join the general strike called for Thursday by the Opposition, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a constituent of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime, has sought to convey that it can no longer be taken for granted.
However, this does not mean that DMK president M. Karunanidhi will go the Mamata Banerjee way, and the party is unlikely to rock the UPA boat for the present, according to DMK sources.
“Our leader is annoyed at the high-handed and big brother attitude of the Congress in taking major policy decisions without consulting its allies. That is why he announced the support of both the party and its trade union, the Labour Progressive Front (LPF), to the national strike called by the Opposition for a cause that we fully agree with,” a senior party leader told The Hindu on Wednesday.
The general strike has been called to protest against the hike in diesel price, restrictions on supply of domestic LPG cylinders and nod for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the multi-brand retail sector.
“We have to take into consideration the political fallout of our decision. Therefore, while expressing our annoyance, we don’t want to do anything in haste and want to wait and watch the political developments in the country over the next couple of days,” said a party MP.
What has upset Mr. Karunanidhi, party leaders say, is the total failure of the Congress leadership to convince its allies about its decision or seek to assuage their feelings.
“The Congress is totally oblivious to the compulsions faced by the allies in their States. They could have gone for a partial rollback of the diesel price hike as demanded by us. Instead, the Congress is going ahead with more and more policy announcements in an aggressive manner,” a senior leader said.
Of late, Mr. Karunanidhi has been voicing his displeasure with the attitude of the Congress and even avoided meeting President Pranab Mukherjee during his recent visit to Chennai, even though he had campaigned for his candidature during the Presidential elections. In fact, in May, he said the DMK was staying in the alliance with a bitter feeling only because it did not want to upset the Congress applecart in the run-up to the presidential poll.
The DMK leaders argue that the Congress, which was overtly concerned about the Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation (TESO) conference organised by Mr. Karunanidhi and wanted him to avoid adopting a resolution in support of a separate Tamil Eelam, was not even remotely bothered about other issues.
“When it comes to issues directly concerning the people’s livelihood, we cannot compromise. With the Lok Sabha election hardly two years away, policy decisions affecting the poor will have a bearing on its outcome. The Congress has not realised it,” the DMK MP said.
When the 2G spectrum allocation scandal shook the country, AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa had offered support to the Congress if it showed the door to the DMK. Asked whether the DMK was reluctant to leave the UPA because it feared that the AIADMK may seek to fill the vacuum, a senior DMK leader said none would really support UPA-II now, as it was becoming increasingly unpopular.
Mr. Karunanidhi, party leaders assert, is also firm that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa should not be allowed to visit India to take part in celebrations connected with the 2,600th anniversary of the Buddha attaining Enlightenment.