PMK finds limited options on alliance

CHENNAI, JULY 12. As political parties in Tamil Nadu take opposing positions on the Sri Lankan crisis, electoral realignments in the State have become more difficult. For constituents of the AIADMK-led alliance, their stand on Sri Lanka could be the deciding factor in separating their enemies from their friends.

The party that is most likely to be affected by the developments on this front is the PMK, a fence-sitter in the DMK-led NDA. Having risen to the level of a key player by developing political bargaining into a fine art, the PMK suddenly finds its options cut down considerably.

With the AIADMK, after due deliberation, taking a stridently anti-Eelam stand, the PMK could very well be squeezed within the NDA. The PMK struck an aggressive posture in its relations with the DMK only after creating an impression that it could walk into an AIADMK-led alliance if it chose to. Now, that card appears no longer available for play. By asking for the removal of the PMK from the Union Government for making pro-Eelam pronouncements, the AIADMK has in effect ruled out an alliance with the Vanniar- based party.

Although the AIADMK is known to have made opportunistic electoral adjustments, the present stand, so close to the Assembly polls, leaves little room for the PMK to enter the alliance.

Moreover, the other friends of the AIADMK - the Congress(I), the TMC, the CPI and the CPI(M) - are just as hostile to the idea of Eelam. The Congress(I) and the TMC, in particular, have been very harsh critics of the LTTE and its supporters such as the MDMK and the PMK.

The shaping of the two major electoral groupings in the State, the NDA led by the DMK and the `secular alliance' led by the AIADMK, had nothing at all to do with the Sri Lanka crisis. But, at present, the ethnic conflict in the neighbouring nation makes a neat divide of the two alliances. A cross-over from one alliance to another is, therefore, not an easy proposition.

Initially, the AIADMK general secretary, Ms. Jayalalitha, concentrated her ire on the DMK and the MDMK for their stand on the Eelam question. The PMK was let off lightly though its stand on Eelam was just as hardline as that of the MDMK. At that time, the AIADMK explanation was that the MDMK came in for special treatment because the Erode conference, where a pro-LTTE line found voice, was organised by that party.

Thus, at first, the AIADMK stand was that the MDMK, along with the DMK, which was the leader of the coalition in Tamil Nadu, should be banned. The PMK was not in the picture. But, other anti-LTTE parties such as the Congress(I), the TRC and the Janata Party, made no such distinction. And, soon enough, the AIADMK came out with a hard-hitting statement against the PMK too.

All this could leave the PMK with no choice but to remain in the NDA for the time-being. And the DMK could sense an opportunity to cut to size a difficult ally.