A regional party from southern India yesterday announced that it was withdrawing from the national ruling coalition, weakening the government which was already a minority in parliament.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Party, based in Tamil Nadu State, had been pressuring the government to condemn Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes against ethnic minority Tamils during the island’s civil war.
Party leader Muthuvel Karunanidhi announced at a press conference in the city of Chennai that his party would withdraw from the left-leaning United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition which has been in power since 2009.
“We can’t accept the stand of the center,” Karunanidhi said.
Unless a solution is found, the move significantly raises the chances of elections before their scheduled date in the first half of this year, with the UPA a minority since September last year when another party withdrew its support.
The DMK, which depends on Tamil voters who have close ties to their counterparts in Sri Lanka, is the second-biggest party in the coalition, with 18 members of parliament and five Cabinet positions.
However, Indian Minister of Finance P. Chidambaram told reporters yesterday that the government remained “stable” and that Karunanidhi might be convinced to stay in the coalition if parliament passed a resolution condemning Sri Lanka.
The ruling Congress Party, which depends on small regional parties for support, rushed three senior figures including Chidambaram to Chennai during the weekend to find a solution.
DMK Party spokesman T.K.S. Elangovan hinted that the announcement could be a pressure tactic designed to force the left-leaning Congress Party, which dominates the coalition, to harden its criticism of Sri Lanka.
“The [DMK] ministers are yet to submit their resignation,” he said.
Karunanidhi had warned at the weekend that the DMK would withdraw unless the government supported a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that condemned “genocide and war crimes” in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan forces brought decades of fighting on the island to an end in 2009 in an onslaught against Tamil Tiger separatists which has since been dogged by war crime allegations.