Rues a senior partyman: "Till April 16, 1999, DMK was not a mere political party but an egalitarian movement. By aligning with the BJP, we've reduced ourselves to just another party. The Congress had become just a party under Indira Gandhi, the Left abandoned the idea of revolution to become just another party three decades ago. It's unfortunate the DMK has also become just like them."
To be sure, the DMK's compulsions were understandable-occasioned as it was by the resumption of the old Congress-AIADMK alignment. But the overwhelming fear among its cadre is the likely negative fallout. For starters, it has earned the antipathy of long-term friends in the Left, particularly the CPI. Then, its ally TMC has gravitated back to its estranged parent, the Congress. The TMC, ironically, was born in a wholesale defiance by the state Congress against a tie-up with the AIADMK forged during the Narasimha Rao days.
The DMK was hoping for a total realignment in the state with the DMK-PMK-MDMK coming under one banner. The PMK had said it would stay with Jaya at the state-level while backing the BJP at the Centre. Now that the BJP has bowed out, it's already talking to Jayalalitha to be part of the new arrangement at the Centre.
Laments a senior DMK leader: "Instead of projecting Jayalalitha as a great destabiliser, we've made her a heroine who saved the country from BJP's misrule. Instead of Kumaramangalam, now we'll have Arjun Singh criticising the DMK government".
Dravidian ideologues, however, blame the Left's "rank opportunism" for the turn of events. Says M.S.S. Pandian: "The sole responsibility of pushing the DMK into the BJP camp rests with the Left, particularly the CPI(M). It would've been fine if the Left had abandoned the DMK to join hands with people who have a better secularist track record. But Jayalalitha is responsible for nurturing the worst form of communal politics in Tamil Nadu." Asks Era Thiagarajan, another Dravidian scholar: "What's wrong in saying Jaya is worse than communalism? Wasn't fascism always centred on a single individual...Hitler, Mussolini? One can fight communalism, how can we counter the fascism of Jayalalitha?" Despite this posturing, the DMK is working overtime to retain its traditional minorities support base. Just before Murasoli Maran announced the party's support to the saffron brigade, Karunanidhi put the controversial Prevention of Terrorist Activities (POTA) Bill on the backburner. Other sops for the Muslims are also on the anvil.
But will that wash away the stains of its April blunder? Says a leader: "The Dravidian movement was in the forefront of fighting Hindutva bigotry. First, AIADMK, MDMK and PMK justified the BJP, now we've also accepted them. It's a pity no other party is left in the state to oppose the BJP. This is the end of an era."