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What a coalition means in Tamil Nadu

By A Ganesh Nadar
May 12, 2006 15:12 IST
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It might sound strange in the age of hung Parliaments, but Tamil Nadu is not used to a coalition government. It has been ruled by the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, but now it may be ruled by a coalition government.

It is not a coalition of equals, though. The DMK has the most legislators and will thus call the shots.

The Congress will not do anything to rock the DMK boat. The Congress needs the DMK at the Centre.

The Congress is also hamstrung by the lack of any state leader who can actually win an election here without either of the Dravidian parties as an ally.

The Communists, like everywhere else, are likely to be making noises about the rise in bus fares, freight and all essential items -- which seem inevitable.

It's the Pattali Makkal Katchi that the DMK president has to worry about the most.

Dr Ramadoss has always claimed he knows the pulse of the people and that he is always on the winning side. He has been an ally of both the DMK and the AIADMK at various times.

Karunanidhi's foresight in giving the Communists and the PMK the same number of seats is one of the factors that worked for the DMK-led alliance.

The PMK could rock the DMK boat for a number of reasons. The PMK strongly supports reservations in the private sector; Karunanidhi never does anything big business houses don't like.

That's true for the Congress too. But the Communists will support the PMK on reservations.

There are a lot of private engineering, teacher-training and nursing colleges in Tamil Nadu. The PMK will want reservations in all of them. The DMK cannot allow this as these institutions are run by people who have a clout with all ruling parties.

All the populist freebies of colour televisions, rice at Rs 2, gas stoves and two acres of land to the landless will have to met by raising taxes or raising the price of government services.

All the allies will support the freebies but they will not support raising prices or taxes. They will have to play to their galleries.

Apart from free power for farmers, Karunanidhi has promised free power for weavers. This will mean power rates for the paying public will go up. This will not be supported by his allies.

Both the DMK and PMK will want to review every Jayalalithaa decision in the last five years and if possible book a dozen cases against all the ministers in the previous government. The Congress and the Communists will not allow this. They will remind Karunanidhi that nothing came out of all the cases that they filed after 1996. In fact those cases were one of the reasons that Jayalalithaa won in 2001.

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A Ganesh Nadar