Shot in the arm for DMK-led front
Shobha Warrier in Madras
The decision of Dr Krishnaswamy, of the Puthiya Thamizhagam to join the DMK-led front has brought some cheer back to the front and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.
When the PMK left the DMK front, blaming Karunanidhi, he in turn blamed it on his horoscope. Now, he must be thanking his stars.
The Dalit outfit's joining the front was on the cards for quite sometime. The chief minister announced the decision following a meeting with Krishnaswamy.
Krishnaswamy had been making charges against the DMK Government for two years. A major issue that irked Krishnaswamy was that of "police-highhandedness, leading to the death of 17 Manjoli tea estate employees in Tirunalveli".
The Dalit leader accused the Justice Mohan Commission of covering up the issue and criticised the government for releasing its report.
The tea estate had been an issue for the Puthiya Thamizhagam from 1998. The outfit had called for a strike at Manjoli, alleging bonded labour practices.
During the strike, estate supervisor Antonymuthu was murdered, for supporting the management. Krishnaswamy was the eleventh accused in the case.
From then on, Krishnaswamy has been trying to get closer to the DMK, but Karunanidhi kept him at a distance.
The scenario changed after the 1999 elections. Even though a Third Front, of which the Puthiya Thamizhagam was a partner, came a cropper in the parliamentary elections, its candidates got about a lakh votes in many southern constituencies like Tirunalveli, Thoothukudi, Virudhunagar and Ramanathapuram.
The AIADMK is vibrant in southern districts, where the Thevar community dominates. The Pallar sect of Dalits, represented by the Puthiya Thamizhagam, had been fighting alleged violence and atrocities by the Thevar community against the Dalits.
So, the question of Krishnaswamy joining the AIADMK front for the assembly elections did not arise.
Ideologically, the only option it had was to join the DMK front. Now, its a boon for Karunanidhi, as he needs a strong partner who can challenge the supremacy of the AIADMK in the southern districts.
When Jayalalitha became more confident and strong, the DMK found itself on a shaky wicket. Naturally, it was forced to look at the PT more sympathetically.
Karunanidhi sent PWD minister Duraimurugan and Law Minister Aladi Aruna to the tea estate to pacify Dalits of the area. Aruna even collected representations from Dalits. Nothing more came out of the visit, but a beginning was made.
Another irritant was the ransacking of the PT office by hooligans. Krishnaswamy accused the police of being a mute spectator during the attack. With Karunanidhi pacifying the PT leader on the floor of the House and promising action, it was a foregone conclusion that Krishnaswamy would join the DMK-led front.
Dalit Panthers represented by Thirumalvalaven are also is expected to switch over from the AIADMK front to the DMK front with the PMK joining the AIADMK front, due to the feud between Thirumalvalavan and Dr Ramdoss. The DMK led alliance will be in a slightly better position if Karunanidhi can manage to have both strong Dalit outfits in his front.
So, it is mutually beneficial to the Puthiya Thamizhagam and DMK led front, which was feeling a little low with the PMK walking out, that they both join hands for the assembly elections, to fight a confident Jayalalitha and her maha kootani [grand alliance].