End of the road?

Claiming self-respect as more important than merely grasping for power, Vaiko, leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), impulsively walked out of J. Jayalalithaa's AIADMK-led alliance on Sunday. The statement, released by the party, gave vent to the hurt feelings of its leader V. Gopalswamy, popularly, known as Vaiko. He dubbed Jayalalithaa "haughty, arrogant and unilateralist in her decisions". But since he has been her ally for the last six years, Vaiko should only be too aware of the Iron Lady's temperamental ways.

Vaiko is caught in a bind. It is too late to move across to the rival DMK camp, where the electoral alliances with partners, including the Congress, have been sewn up. Besides, he had parted company with Karunanidhi and Family in a trail of bitterness. Going it alone will be tough and would only mean a complete wipe-out. Also, as the MDMK is no longer a recognised state party, its candidates cannot even expect to get a common symbol. Small wonder, then, the MDMK rationalised its decision to boycott the polls by claiming the moral high ground. "Just as there is no point in buying a painting after losing your sight, the MDMK has no need to obtain power after giving up its self-respect," explained Vaiko.

The difference between Jayalalithaa and Vaiko was over the number of seats. The MDMK climbed down from its initial demand of 35 to 21, but the AIADMK was willing to offer no more than 12 seats. In Tamil Nadu politics, where the swing of a percentage or two can make a difference between winning and losing, the outcome depends not only on the popularity of the main Dravida parties but also on the line-up of smaller outfits backing the rival formations. Some believe that Vaiko's alienation could be a setback for the AIADMK. After all, his party has all along garnered 4-5 per cent of the total votes polled.

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