THERE is nothing secular about foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. The dictionary defines secular as “not pertaining to or concerned with religion or religious body.” DMK patriarch Muthuvel Karunanidhi’s announcement on Tuesday that his party MPs would strongly oppose FDI in retail in the debate in Parliament but vote for it is like hunting with the hound and running with the hare, a tactic at which his party excels. The DMK opposes the contentious move to permit FDI in retail, he said; nevertheless he has decided to support the UPA government in Parliament on the issue solely to prevent “communal” forces from coming to power. Karunanidhi is too experienced a politician to know that there is no danger of the UPA government falling even if the FDI vote goes against it and there is no chance of the NDA forming a government as it simply does not have the numbers. The spectrum scam is the creation of the DMK’s own A Raja during his term as Telecom minister in the UPA government. After the demolition of Babari Masjid, only the DMK wooed the BJP when it saw that party’s stars on the ascendency, became a member of the National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP and enjoyed the fruits of power from 1999 to 2004 without Karunanidhi’s conscience pricking him. Only when the DMK weather cock predicted that the NDA was unlikely to get another term, did he hitch his wagon to the Congress-led alliance.
The DMK’s decision, howsoever bitter it was, to vote in favour of FDI was influenced solely by extraneous considerations. With a hostile AIADMK government firmly entrenched in Fort St. George, Karunanidhi could ill afford to incur the wrath of the Congress. His daughter, Kanimozhi, is still not out of the woods in the 2G case. With the Congress showing signs of facilitating the 2G accused wriggle out of their predicament by putting up RP Singh, a former CAG official, to challenge the presumptive loss of Rs. 1.76 crore, the stage is set for watering down the charges against Raja and Kanimozhi. Karuninidhi simply seized the opportunity and offered to vote for FDI in Parliament much against his party’s stated objections to opening retail to foreign investors. He need not have invented spurious justification for his volte-face. To call the BJP communal and the Congress non-communal is a travesty of truth. The Congress was the first party to communalise politics in India. Never having won an Assembly election in Kerala, the Congress, even during Prime Minister Nehru’s time, entered into an electoral alliance with the Muslim League in 1960 to capture power in that southern State. But for this support, the League would not have risen its head in independent India after Partition. Having tasted power in Kerala with communal forces, the Congress went on to align with the Kerala Congress, a party of Christians, National Democratic Party of the Nair community and the Socialist Republican Party of the Ezhava community. No other party in India has contributed so much to communalising politics in the country as the Congress. Karunanidhi is old enough to know this, although he may argue he is senile enough to have forgotten.