Saturday, March 4, 2006
Vaiko steals a march…finally
Cracks have appeared in the Democratic Progressive Alliance, the umbrella coalition cobbled together by Karunanidhi, to oust the Jayalalithaa regime. Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) has switched sides yet again. Vaiko has been offered 35 seats by the ruling AIADMK for the May 8 polls to the Tamil Nadu Assembly. The immediate effect of the move means that Karunanidhi’s dream of repeating the DPA’s Lok Sabha victory in the assembly polls stands shattered. But the electoral ramification of the Karunanidhi-Vaiko split this time is far-reaching.
This is the second time that Vaiko has parted ways with Karunanidhi. In fact, the MDMK was born because of Vaiko’s first revolt. In the late ‘90s, Vaiko was the rising star in the DMK. His political acumen, fiery speeches and his aggressive stance on the Eelam issue earned him a berth in Karunanidhi’s inner circle. While political spindoctors were hailing Vaiko as DMK’s next leader, Kalaignar was hatching other plans. Stalin, his second son, was being groomed as the heir apparent of the political leadership of the party. Stalin’s promotion within the party was in direct conflict with Vaiko’s political aspirations. Therefore, when Vaiko revolted, quit and set up MDMK – it was perceived as a battle between dynastic politics and democracy. The MDMK’s stellar success in its first ever elections was testimony to the fact that the people of Tamil Nadu stood by Vaiko. They saw in him a man who had the ability to carve a distinct identity within the Dravidian fold. They saw in him a politician who had the gall to stand up against his mentor Karunanidhi. For he claimed he was wronged and the people believed him so. But those were different times.
With assembly elections less than two months away, Vaiko faces two major challenges. He needs to convince his electorate on two counts – why this revolt against Karunanidhi? And why join hands with Jayalalithaa?
Particularly, the logic behind this revolt has to be hardsold by Vaiko to his votebank. Here are a few facts that stack up against him. In 2003, when Vaiko was languishing in prison on charges of POTA slapped on him by Jayalalithaa, it was Karunanidhi who came to his rescue. It was Karunanidhi who bargained hard with the then NDA government to get Vaiko released from prison.If it not for Karunanidhi’s insistence on revoking POTA, Vaiko would still have been cooling his heels at Vellore jail. Although POTA was not repealed in its entirety even then, if not for Karunanidhi throwing his political weight on this issue, Vaiko would not even have got bail. Vaiko release from prison and his public “vow” to ally with the DMK are still afresh in public memory. Therefore, the Karunanidhi-Vaiko fallout, this time will be viewed as a sishya betraying his guru. A guru who helped in his moment of crisis. Secondly, it would require more than just political brilliance to convince people as to why he chose to join hands with Amma. It was the same Chief Minister who ordered his arrest under POTA! In fact, Vaiko has been vociferously against the Jayalalithaa regime on several issues.
Whilst the electoral arithmetic (35 seats offered by Anna DMK as against 20 offered by DMK) of seat sharing seems to have been the immediate trigger for Vaiko’s sudden shift in loyalties, the long term prospects of winning seem blurred. Vaiko's position now is akin to Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata. He has taken a bold step to enter the electoral chakravyuha. He has no other choice but to fight. And even if he wins, he needs to win big. Else, he runs the risk of being wiped out as a political force. Either which way, his relationship with his mentor, Karunanidhi and the DMK are over. Atleast for now.