In Tamil Nadu, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham joined the National Democratic Alliance ahead of the DMK. The party remained one of the NDA's most loyal constituents. Vaiko (photograph, above), the MDMK general secretary, unabashedly admitted his admiration for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his interviews and speeches.
After the May 2001 assembly election which the All India Anna DMK won, the state Bharatiya Janata Party started moving closer to the AIADMK even while being aligned with the DMK and MDMK in the state. Annoyed, DMK president M Karunanidhi walked out of the state NDA and proclaimed that the alliance stood only at the Centre. The state BJP continued to antagonise the DMK by praising the AIADMK. It was only a matter of time before Karunanidhi walked out of the NDA.
It also became evident that the other Dravidian parties would follow the DMK out of the NDA. It was not possible for the MDMK to stay with an alliance cosying up to the AIADMK, the party that arrested Vaiko under POTA. The MDMK also left the NDA and joined the DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance.
In an interview with Contributing Special Correspondent Shobha Warrier, MDMK Chairman L Ganesan discusses the MDMK's exit from the NDA and its presence in the DMK-led DPA.
The MDMK stood by the NDA all these years. In his interviews to rediff.com, Vaiko mentioned his admiration
for Prime Minister Vajpayee. What led the MDMK to leave the NDA?
Even today, we, particularly Vaiko, have great respect and regard for Mr Vajpayee. The decision to come out of the NDA
Ideological? Why do you cite ideology as the reason after remaining with the BJP for such a long time?
As things stand, as far as India is concerned, there are only two divisions ideologically; secular and non-secular. India is a
country of Indians, and not Hindus alone. Muslims and Christians are as much Indians as Hindus are.
Those in the BJP are more keen to make India Hindia!
Didn't you get this feeling all these years? Why now?
Before joining the NDA, a conference was held in Tirunelveli in which Vaiko spoke in clear terms that our party was for
secularism. (Deputy Prime Minister L K) Advani, who was present at the conference, said they (the BJP) had no difference of opinion with what Vaiko said.
I would say they came down a bit from their ideology, and we, the hardcore Dravidianites, also adjusted ourselves a little bit.
Did you feel uncomfortable being with the BJP earlier?
No, not at all. The BJP as a party, the prime minister, the deputy PM and the president of the BJP were very cordial and
friendly with us. They have not done anything against us. We didn't come out because they did anything wrong to us. We
were happy and thankful.
When did you get the feeling that the BJP was pursuing their ideology of Hindutva?
From the beginning, the BJP was struggling within itself. Inner party clashes were there; the RSS, the VHP, the Sangh
Parivar, etc on one side and Vajpayee on the other. Vajpayee was the person who changed the out and out communal forces into political forces. The battle within is still continuing.
We are more concerned about Tamil, Tamils and Tamil Nadu, only after that comes India and Indians. We cannot disown our
duties to Tamil.
What did the BJP or the NDA do against the Tamils?
We wanted to make Tamil the classical language. That has not been done. Okay, that is not very important. But now in Tamil Nadu, there are people who distort Dravidian ideology and present a wrong picture claiming they follow the same ideology.
Are you referring to the AIADMK?
Yes. They (the BJP) are moving closer to the AIADMK.
Which you don't like...
Definitely, we don't like it. We feel our ideology has to be protected.
Didn't you express your reservations about this to the BJP?
I don't want to go into details because I don't want to offend my BJP friends who had been very friendly and cordial with us.
So, can I say the main reason why you left the NDA was because the BJP was moving closer to the AIADMK?
Yes. That is the most important reason.
Is Vaiko's arrest under POTA another reason? Are you unhappy with the NDA for not helping him come out?
No. When our general secretary Vaiko was in prison, we had two ministers at the Centre. I was the one who was
dealing with the NDA in Vaiko's absence, and that included talking to the PM, deputy PM, etc. So, I can say that they did not let us down.
The only thing I have some reservation about is the amendment of the People's Representation Act which said anybody
punished under POTA would be disqualified as per the People's Representation Act. I feel they could have gone a bit deeper
and consulted Vaiko on this because the one and only person who is affected is Vaiko. Other than that, I know they have done whatever is possible. But the common man is not able to understand the crux of the problem.
The enactment of the Act was with the Centre but the enforcement was left fully in the hands of the state. The enactment is to combat terrorism and cross-border terrorism, and the need is more now than before. And they (the NDA) want to put an end to terrorism and cross-border terrorism.
As unfortunately, the enforcement was left with the state, Ms Jayalalitha took the opportunity to take personal revenge on
Mr Vaiko and our party.
If Vajpayee and Jayalalitha were close and cordial, he might have advised her and she might have heeded his advice. But that cordiality doesn't exist between them. Therefore, he cannot advise (her). It is not possible to use Article 356 against any state as it was used in the days of Mrs Gandhi. Now, so many restrictions are there. So, how can the Centre help us? They were helpless.
But when Vaiko's case appeared in the Supreme Court challenging Section 21 of the POTA, the central government gave an
affidavit favourable to Vaiko. That was not an easy thing, but they did it. Then, as the Supreme Court judgment got delayed, the government wrote to the Supreme Court that it was a very sensitive case, so the judgment should not be delayed. Third, the review committee was given powers by promulgation of an ordinance to help Vaiko. Subsequently also, they brought in an amendment to POTA in order to help Vaiko.
So, with all sincerity, I say the BJP never let us down but it was as helpless as we were.
It is surprising that both your party and the PMK say even today that the NDA treated you well. Even Karunanidhi
says the same thing. But he was unhappy with the way the state BJP conducted itself by supporting the AIADMK.
Are you also unhappy with the state BJP unit?
We didn't have any contact whatsoever with the state BJP. The only occasion we approached them was when we carried out
a signature campaign against the arrest of Vaiko. They didn't refuse. Almost all the political leaders of Tamil Nadu signed.
Since we didn't approach them for anything else, there was no hitch between us.
Is it because the DMK came out of the NDA that the MDMK also decided to follow suit?
Yes. I don't want to conceal it. I wish to be very clear. The Dravidian movement from 1916 till today is a different school of
thought. Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) is the rightful leader of the movement. Therefore, when he decides, it will be in the larger
interests of our movement that we also join him. Remember, we are only an offshoot of the DMK.
So, if the BJP did not try to go closer to the AIADMK, you would have stayed with the NDA.
Then, Kalaignar himself would have stayed with the NDA. Perhaps.
Is there any possibility of the MDMK going back to its parent party, the DMK, in the future?
In politics, anything can take place any time. Nobody can predict! But as things stand, there is no thought of a merger as
such. Kalaignar has clearly stated we will work together for the betterment of Tamils and Tamil Nadu like the CPI-M and
CPI work together.
Would you be talking against the NDA of which you were a part till now?
No, we are very clear in our views, that we would attack the areas the NDA has slipped in. But in my opinion, it has not
slipped or moved away from the agenda. Therefore, there is no need to attack on that line.
Would you be attacking state government policies in the campaign?
Yes, it will be more on that line.
If the NDA returns to power, and if the DPA wins more seats in Tamil Nadu, is there any possibility of you going back to the NDA?
No. In my opinion, in the opinion of the party and particularly in the opinion of our general secretary (Vaiko), such a
possibility is ruled out. There is no going back to the NDA. That is for sure. I am saying this with all respect for Vajpayee.
Vaiko feels intensely because Vajpayee treated him as his foster son, and he was also very attached to Vajpayee.
If at all Vajpayee becomes orime minister again, he need not invite us also. They have a new alliance now.
Image: Uttam Ghosh