Badly sullied DMK is down but not out

Chennai, July 7 (IANS) With the high profile Dayanidhi Maran quitting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet Thursday over corruption charges, the DMK, one of India’s oldest political entities, is down but not out. So it says.

But no one disputes that the DMK is facing one of its worst crisis since it was founded way back in 1949 with rationalism and Tamil nationalism as its core ideology.

As if the humiliating electoral rout that ousted it from power in Tamil Nadu in May was not enough, DMK’s one-time rising star A. Raja is now in prison. So is party chief M. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, an MP.

And on Thursday, Maran stepped down as textiles minister after being accused of corruption in the allocation of second generation spectrum in his earlier avatar as telecom miniser.

But the DMK is vocally confident.

‘Our party has seen many ups and downs. We will effectively meet the current challenges,’ DMK spokesman and MP T.K.S. Elangovan told IANS.

On Maran’s resignation, he said: ‘We are fine with it. We will come out clean in the end.’

DMK leaders recall that the party won just one seat in the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly in 1991. But it still got around 25 percent of votes polled.

Even in May when it was defeated, the DMK-led front polled 39.44 percent votes in Tamil Nadu.

But political pundits admit that there is widespread aversion in the minds of people towards the dominance of Karunanidhi’s family in party affairs — as opposed to the time when Karunanidhi alone was at the helm.

Karunanidhi is no doubt psychologically affected by the jailing of his daughter Kanimozhi. He has already visited her twice in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

At 88, the DMK patriarch is keen on bringing about changes in the party’s organisational structure, a leader said.

The party’s leadership forums will meet July 23-24 in Coimbatore, around 500 km from here.

The changes in the organisational structure are mainly to strengthen the party at the grassroots level by sharing the work load, party insiders told IANS.

Elangovan reiterated that Karunanidhi was still in control of the party. ‘Vital decisions lie with him. He has been running the party for over four decades and continues to run it as usual.’

Elangovan also denied that a coterie surrounded Karunanidhi.

‘He will listen to views and opinions. But the final decision is always taken by him,’ he said.

Even now, Karunanidhi comes to the party headquarters regularly and issues media statements and writes letters to party cadres.

The DMK first rode to power in Tamil Nadu in 1967, and again ruled the state from 1971 to 1977. It returned to power in 1989 but was voted out in 1991.

The DMK had a five-year reign from 1996 and again from 2006, losing power in May 2011.

In the public eye, the DMK may be corrupt. But its leaders assert that the present ruling party and its chief foe, the AIADMK, is not lily white either.