Calling the bluff

The brinkmanship resorted to by the DMK in the last few days over its support to the UPA government has fizzled out with the party exposing its weakness more than strength in its relationship with the Congress. Its bluff has actually been called and this is perhaps good for a party which might have overestimated its place in the coalition. Not even pessimists would have expected the DMK to pull out of the coalition and implement the threat of resignation of its ministers at the Centre. In the event the party had to save its face with the appearance of negotiating its demands with the Congress but finally had to concede the demands of the Congress, without anything in return.

It is possible that the Congress deliberately increased its demand for the number of seats it wanted to contest in the state assembly elections to make a point and test the DMK’s nerves. The DMK has often ignored the fact that it was as much dependent on the Congress in the state as the Congress is on it at the Centre.

While the Congress has other options like the Samajwadi Party, the DMK has none. An alliance with the Congress is needed for the party in the elections in which Jayalalitha’s AIADMK, with its allied parties, may pose a much more serious challenge than in the last elections. The party’s image has taken a beating with the taint of the spectrum scandal and the arrest of A Raja. It is possible that the investigations may involve the party’s top leadership too. In the circumstances a soft and accommodating attitude to the DMK would not have politically suited the Congress.

The DMK has been a stable ally, not given to the tantrums of other parties like the AIADMK and some parties. It has only once in the past tried to pose a threat over the issue of disinvestment in the Neyveli Lignite. If the Congress accepted the DMK’s demand then, it was now the DMK’s turn to surrender. It is doubtful if the DMK, which is not known to make emotional responses in politics, had thought through its threat this time. It has only lost by creating a false crisis which it could not sustain and the Congress has gained by sticking to its guns. If the DMK gained anything in secret at the cost of public interest, it is not known yet.

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