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Other than the interference of the executive on the judiciary and how even corrupt judges had been appointed to the higher courts of India, Justice Markandey Katju’s sensational revelation on Sunday exposed one more ill that ails governance in India - the opportunistic pressure by political allies on a minority government.

Although Justice Katju didn’t point his finger at any party in Tamil Nadu, by simple exclusion the needle of suspicion finally falls on the DMK. Some DMK leaders, including Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, have also reacted against the revelation. But what’s disconcerting is the possibility of pressure from a party, that could affect the independence of judiciary, on the UPA regime. While many such incidents were known and were public, many, such as this one, seems to have been unknown.

The Times of India, which carried the Katju story on Monday, reported on Tuesday on how the DMK had resorted to "brinkmanship on several occasions, threatening to pull out of the government if its demands were not met". Interestingly, the threat began within the 48 hours of the UPA taking over the reins of power. The party apparently refused to join until it got the portfolios of its choice.

Representational image. Agencies.

Representational image. Agencies.

The other incidents that the report listed included the party’s threat to the disinvestment of 10 percent shares in Neyveli Lignite Corporation, which had to be subsequently shelved. The threat was revived again when it asked for the centre’s intervention in Sri Lanka. And it turned out to be a mere threat because it was withdrawn, not because of any credible action by Delhi, but by assurances from the then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee who flew down to Chennai.

The series of threats continued during the second phase of the UPA too, which ultimately resulted in a real withdrawal. Just before the parliament elections, it also broke its alliance with the Congress only to be beaten black and blue by the AIADMK. The most bizarre of its withdrawal threats was during the 2009 war against LTTE by the Sri Lankan military, when it could have put pressure on Delhi to intervene. Here again, the party relented, reportedly on some assurances by the centre, which hardly mattered.

Going by the litany of such brinkmanship, one wonders if the DMK was the Congress’s worst UPA-ally - threatening a pull out at the drop of a hat and extracting its pound of flesh at every critical moment, forcing the UPA to do things that would eventually hurt and haunt it. The biggest slur on the UPA government was the 2G scam - for the way the number of zeros captured public imagination as the biggest corruption scandal in India. The Prime Minister was curiously silent or complicit, as the opposition alleged, because of the same brinkmanship. How else did he keep himself at “arms length” when things were going wrong right under his nose. The main accused, A Raja still maintains that Manmohan Singh was informed of every decision.

Finally, when the DMK really pulled out, it was too late for the UPA. It had made enough compromises that would eventually drown it.

Worse still, was the way DMK abandoned the Congress in Tamil Nadu during the parliament elections. The party with about 10 percent vote-share and a number of national leaders turned out to be an untouchable and had to go it alone. The DMK too was shunned by everybody except some minor allies and lost in all the seats it contested. Had the UPA resisted the pressure of DMK, every time it played and replayed the pull out drama, it could have at least saved itself from some of the grime that covered it by the time it remitted office.

No other party seemed to have such a series of pull out threats as the DMK had. And no other party, going by the information available so far, also seemed to have had such a wide ranging portfolio of interests as the DMK did. Its leaders might resist Katju’s suggestion and might question the timing of the revelation; but what seems to be so apparent is that the Congress was willing to do anything when the DMK appeared to be angry. Let’s see if there are more skeletons in UPA’s cupboard.

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