TAMIL NADU

DMK gearing for another show of strength

CHENNAI Dec. 25. The DMK is testing its strength at the local level and also gauging the extent of anti-AIADMK sentiment with a Statewide agitation on December 27.

``Earlier, the agitation was held at district headquarters. Now it is being conducted in taluk headquarters,'' the DMK president, M. Karunanidhi, said when he was asked about the difference between the October 21 protest and the one planned now.

The DMK youth wing chief and Mr. Karunanidhi's son, M. K. Stalin, described the earlier agitation, in which he courted arrest, as the first phase of the party protest, aimed at forcing the Government to withdraw ``anti-people policies'', including an across-the-board hike in the prices of commodities and services, the increase in the issue price of rice in the public distribution system, the anti-conversion law and bus privatisation.

The focus of the December 27 agitation will be on the anti-conversion law for, the DMK feels that it is time that the party asserted its anti-Hindutva identity and established its position as one which cared for minorities and oppressed classes.

Filling a void

In the DMK perception, the direction in which the AIADMK is headed - following the enactment of the legislation and the Gujarat visit by the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, to attend the swearing-in of Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of that State— has left a void, which can be filled by the party.

The minorities' fears over the AIADMK intentions mean that this is the right time for the DMK to extend its hand of friendship.

Key question

Writing in the DMK organ, Murasoli, today, Mr. Karunanidhi warned the cadres against the party's opposition to the law being used by its opponents to label it as anti-Hindu. This aspect had to be explained to people, he emphasised and said the cadres should raise the question why lower caste Hindus desired to convert. Mr. Karunanidhi sought to link this law to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and said that in Tamil Nadu, all Acts would be misused. That was why his party opposed the anti-conversion law.

The manner the DMK is preparing for the agitation makes it clear that the party wants it as a show of strength, rivalling the October 21 display. The party says it is prepared for the `usual measures' the AIADMK adopts on the eve of an agitation— arrest of leaders and raids by one agency or the other.

A few days before the October 21 agitation, the houses of a few senior leaders, including the former PWD Minister, Durai Murugan, were raided. ``There is no one left to be raided now,'' remarked a leader. ``But we are prepared. Our leader has already told us where we should be based and we have already started moving.''

Though the `territories of operation' for leaders have been delineated, the behaviour of units in the southern districts will be under scrutiny again. The previous agitation, despite having been led by Mr. Stalin, was supported by the trouble-prone Madurai unit, where Mr. Karunanidhi's elder son, M. K. Azhagiri, has a large following. This time round too, the open differences in Madurai make it the city the DMK will watch keenly.