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PMK, Congress vulnerable to `poaching'

CHENNAI, DEC. 30. Apart from the PMK, which openly accuses the AIADMK of trying to poach on its MLAs, other parties in Tamil Nadu such as the TMC and the Congress have become apprehensive of what they see as attempts to engineer defections from their ranks. In some parties, intra-party differences have led members to appreciate the advantages of being on the treasury benches. The Anti-Defection Law remains the only stumbling block.

Although the AIADMK does not want to appear as if it is desperately seeking defections, party seniors have created the impression that those switching loyalties are welcome. Indeed, the AIADMK welcomed with open arms Mr. S. Austin of the MGR-ADMK, who till recently was a strong critic of its general secretary, Ms. Jayalalithaa.

In the PMK, the Vanniar-Dalit divide might affect the legislature group too. Many Dalit MLAs are beginning to have difficulties with the Vanniar dominance in the party. Not surprisingly, the first ``abduction'' and ``defection'' episode involved a Dalit MLA, Mrs. Sivagami Vincent. She represents Dharapuram, where the PMK does not command any significant following. Actually, the PMK won the seat on the strength of the AIADMK.

There are similar cases in which the MLAs see no future in continuing with the PMK. The AIADMK, naturally, is an attractive alternative.

While the fissures are not showing as yet in the TMC legislature group, even without much effort on the part of the ruling party, trouble is brewing in the Congress camp.

The Congress Legislature party leader, Mrs. D. Yasodha, known for her ``unconditional support'' to the AIADMK, is at loggerheads with the TNCC president, Mr. E. V. K. S. Elangovan, whose one-point agenda appears to be ``anti- AIADMKism''. Of the seven MLAs in the party, at least two back Mrs. Yasodha's stand and, driven to the wall, they might even cross over to the ruling party. Mr. Elangovan says the AIADMK tried to contact a few of the Congress MLAs in an attempt to lure them.

In the TMC, despite its president, Mr. G. K. Vasan's stock line that ``his party is intact'', there are rumblings within the 22-member legislature group. In fact, it appears divided into three groups on alliance with the AIADMK.

While a few MLAs still feel that the party should ``swallow the humiliations'' heaped by the AIADMK and continue its support, a section of seniors which feels marginalised by Mr. Vasan, wants the party to merge with the Congress.

And, the third group which is seething with anger over the AIADMK's ``imperiousness'', wants the TMC to snap ties with the ruling party, but remain a regional party and lead an alternative front.

In fact, the party's whip in the Assembly, Mr. C. Gnanasekaran, launched a no-holds-barred tirade against the AIADMK Government at public meetings in Dharmapuri recently. And, Mr. Vasan, who still claims that his party's alliance with the AIADMK continues, remained a silent spectator.

``The AIADMK Government has failed the people's expectations and hence we will have to oppose it aggressively in the Assembly,'' says Mr. Gnanasekaran.

However, the pro-AIADMK MLAs may not toe this line. They are likely to remain ``devoted'' to the ruling party. At a convenient juncture, they might even defect.

The pro-Congress MLAs in the party are likely to wait until after the outcome of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections is known, to decide on their course back to the parent party.

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