TAMIL NADU

MDMK confident of its strategy

CHENNAI, JAN. 20. Caught between the compulsion to remain in the BJP-led NDA at the Centre and the need to oppose the DMK-led NDA in the State, the MDMK is beginning to realise that the present situation is untenable in the long run.

However, the party leadership is unwilling to force the issue now and prefers to wait for the Parliament elections due in 2004.

In the byelection, the party wants its voice heard irrespective of the stand of the other NDA constituents in the State.

With most of the Opposition parties staying away from the Andipatti byelection, the MDMK leaders say they have been given an opportunity to show the party's organisational abilities to put up a candidate against the AIADMK supremo, Jayalalithaa.

Following the break down of talks during the last Assembly polls, the MDMK declared that it would contest the elections on its own, but would not fight the BJP anywhere in the State. The MDMK itself is aware that its decision led to splitting of votes at least in some constituencies, contributing to the debacle for the State NDA at the hustings.

In the local body polls, however, the MDMK fought both the DMK and the BJP. The MDMK, which has been growing as a political force to reckon with till 1996, now finds itself on the fringes of the political spectrum. Senior party leaders blame the DMK for a majority of the problems the MDMK faces today, but are quick to point out that this is a ``transient phase'' which every party has to go through.

One recent cause of worry was that the party did not perform as it was expected to in the local body elections. It was then the leaders seemed to realise that ideology alone could not inspire the rank-and-file and visible symbols of presence and power were needed to bring in supporters. ``People tend to consider a party as an alternative only when they think it has a fair chance of winning.

Though we have a very good organisational base throughout the State, we have to accept that we are behind the AIADMK and the DMK in this respect'', says the MDMK leader, Vaiko.

But party insiders claim that ``many'' in the State are trying to create a rift within the party is proof enough that it is still a force. In the past few weeks, Mr. Vaiko has been touring various parts of the State, reviewing the work of district-level functionaries and looking into local problems.

After assessing the mood of the rank-and-file, the party is confident of its strategy of not aligning with any of the major parties here ``losing our self-respect''.

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