The less there is to lose, the more there is to gain. In quitting the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre with only a year to go before the general election, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is not exactly taking a huge political gamble. The possible political gains far outweigh the inherent risks in leaving a ruling coalition and being out of power at the Centre as well as in the State. As the protest movement on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue gathers steam in Tamil Nadu, the DMK realised it could be under attack for being part of the government at the Centre. The party, therefore, thought it wiser to hunt with the hounds rather than run with the hare. Instead of having to defend the Centre’s action or inaction on Sri Lanka, the DMK will now have the freedom to question and criticise the UPA’s foreign policy. Of course, the party is now without a strong ally in the State. But, then, the DMK knows that the alliance with which it won the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the 2006 Tamil Nadu Assembly election had failed to deliver in the 2011 Assembly election. Circumstances are propitious for a political churning as the ruling party in the State, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, too has alienated all its allies of 2011. Ideally, the DMK would have liked to time the break-up closer to the general election, but with the spontaneous overflow on to the streets of powerful feelings of Tamil identity, party patriarch M. Karunanidhi decided to seize the opportunity. With several of his earlier threats to leave the UPA on the Lankan issue having achieved nothing tangible, the DMK president was also under pressure to show that he meant what he said. No matter what happens with the resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Mr. Karunanidhi will be hard to please from now on.
Although the UPA government is not in imminent danger of collapse, it no longer has the comfort of numbers. Any one of the parties supporting the government from the outside, especially the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party, can now trigger a general election before schedule. What this means is that in the most crucial period before elections, the Congress will not have the ability to push ahead with its economic reforms and political agenda overriding opposition from other UPA constituents and supporting parties. The DMK too might not be looking at an early general election. Memories of the drubbing it took two years ago after the 2G spectrum scam are still fresh, and Mr. Karunanidhi might like to give the AIADMK some more time to slide down in the popularity graph. However, the party must be hoping to make better use of its time in opposition than it made of its time in power.