Those too weak to strike can only cringe in the face of provocation. After its Central ministers were caught in controversies over the allocation of spectrum and grant of telecom licences, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam — especially once it lost power in Tamil Nadu — knew it no longer held the upper hand vis-à-vis the Congress. Indeed, over the past couple of years, power equations between the two parties have altered dramatically with the southern party keener to keep the alliance going than the senior partner at the national level. But with the exit of the Trinamool Congress from the United Progressive Alliance, the DMK is now hoping to correct the imbalance without putting the alliance itself at risk. Against this backdrop, its decision to support any Opposition-sponsored resolution in Parliament against Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail is no more than another cynical manoeuvre to get the Congress to do its bidding on other issues. Not surprisingly, the DMK threat on the FDI issue came along with a fresh demand: the Centre should bring a review petition in the Supreme Court against the cancellation of 122 telecom licences issued when the party’s A. Raja was Communications Minister. As a part of the UPA government, the DMK cannot disown collective responsibility and distance itself from Union Cabinet decisions. The opportunity to fight the FDI approval from within the government is long gone. Surely, running with the hare and hunting with the hounds is an exercise impossible to keep up.
Although the DMK is working with limited options, the risk-return-ratio thrown up by its calculations is tied to its perception of the political fortunes of the Congress in 2014. Closer to the general election, the party might not be as risk-averse as it is now. That it does not want to be seen as irretrievably attached to the Congress is evident from its decision to not seek its original quota of ministerial berths. The DMK would also take into consideration the possibility of its principal rival in Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, taking its place in the government at the Centre if it chooses to exit the UPA. Hostile governments at both the Centre and the State might make the political situation in Tamil Nadu too hot for the DMK to handle. And, in such a scenario, the DMK can expect no sympathy from Delhi in the cases related to the telecom scams. What remains to be seen is whether the party would pick up the courage in the near future to bark, if not bite. Right now, its lot is to whine and whimper, and not to dwell too much on the insults and injuries of the past.