Mr Chidambaram, here's why the DMK pulled out

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 20, 2013 08:08 hrs

In slightly injured tones, Finance Minister P Chidambaram observed a press conference on Wednesday to clarify the state of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition after Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi withdrew: "We really don’t know why Mr Karunanidhi withdrew support…”

Here are three possible reasons why

1. The DMK has traditionally been a supporter of the pan-Tamil movement. Karunanidhi is deeply committed to Tamil-ness and preserving the Tamil identity. Support to the movement in Sri Lanka comes as an extension of this, which identifies with the rights of Tamils as a minority.

After Prabhakaran’s killing, leadership of the movement had dissipated. The Tamil diaspora is strong and wealthy. It has been funding small groups in Tamil Nadu which have been agitating for the Tamil cause. Karunanidhi was worried that these groups might undermine the DMK’s following – like Nedumaran and Vaiko had tried to do.

2. Although enthusiasm for Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu is waning, support for the DMK is not picking up. The Tamil Nadu government has failed to address the enormous power shortage that the state is facing and the DMK has been unable to capitalise on this sentiment.

This move is an effort to present a full-throated voice of the Opposition to Jayalalithaa.

3. The DMK and the Congress have, in alliance, always got a huge share of the vote. But the alliance suffered a serious setback in the assembly elections of 2011. The drubbing suffered by the DMK alliance can be partly attributed to the mismatch in the percentage of votes polled by each individual party in the constituencies it contested.

While the DMK received 42.11% of the total votes polled in the 124 constituencies in which it fielded candidates, its principal ally, the Congress, managed only 35.64% of the votes in the 63 seats it contested.

By contrast, the DMK won 45.99% of the 132 seats it contested in 2006 and the Congress garnered 42.65% in 48 seats. The two parties won 96 and 34 seats respectively, but this time they managed merely 23 and five seats respectively. For the DMK, this has been the signal that the Congress is a liability they might regret allying with.

So snapping ties was on the horizon. But, doing it now, the timing was propitious because there was an issue on hand: The killing of Tamils.

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