DMK turns silent on Sri Lankan Tamils’ woes

DMK turns silent on Sri Lankan Tamils’ woes
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First Published: Mon, Jan 05 2009. 11 44 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Jan 05 2009. 11 44 PM IST
Bangalore / Chennai: Tamil Nadu’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or DMK, has turned silent on the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils just ahead of national elections due by May.
It is an indication that the party, which leads the ruling alliance in the state and has seven ministers in the Union government, is facing a difficult situation in managing allies such as the Congress party, analysts said.
The party has been agitating after Sri Lanka stepped up military operations against rebel Tamils, and had threatened in October that its 16 parliamentarians would resign if India did not call for a ceasefire.
The fall of Kilinochchi on Friday—the capital of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, a militant outfit banned in India after the assassinations of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi—is being seen as a major victory for the Sri Lankan forces.
The fighting that began in January 2008 when Sri Lanka ended a ceasefire with LTTE, has kept the political temperature in Tamil Nadu boiling, with the DMK wresting the initiative from parties such as the Communist Party of India that took up the cause.
“It has definitely put the ruling DMK in a fix,” said N. Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of Observer Research Foundation, a policy think tank.
Last week, the Congress said that Sri Lanka ought to hand over to India LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran, if he is captured.
“Keeping the public mood afloat may not happen now,” Sathiya Moorthy said.
“Parties try to bring extraneous factors to fight anti-incumbency,” said G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, a New Delhi-based political analyst and Mint columnist. “It’ll boil down to internal turmoil for the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) if the DMK were to continue to raise the issue.”
The issue did not figure in the campaign for a closely watched by-election at Thirumangalam, an assembly constituency in Madurai district, with the principal opposition, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or AIADMK, focusing on issues such as corruption and power cuts.
According to Krishna Anand, a Chennai-based political commentator, the Sri Lankan cause is perhaps not as emotive an issue as it was two decades ago.
“Most of the parties have taken a stand on this (Sri Lankan issue) and have not really been able to go very far into it,” Anand said.
However, others warn that the issue could impact the Congress in elections.
“The Congress party will have to face the consequences of this in the parliamentary elections,” said Pazha Nedumaran, a Tamil Nationalist Movement leader and a sympathizer of LTTE.
“If the Congress party doesn’t change its mind about it, then there will be more support for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party),” said Suba Veerapandian, general secretary of an organization called the Dravida Iyakka Tamilar Peravai seen as sympathetic to LTTE.
Meanwhile, S. Ramadoss, founder of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a UPA ally, on Saturday renewed his demand that the military offensive be stopped. “What is the reason for the Indian Prime Minister’s silence?” Ramadoss was quoted by PTI as saying.
The DMK has been been trying to woo Ramadoss after the two allies parted ways earlier this year. But an alliance may not yet be in sight, especially with the PMK announcing that it would remain neutral in the Thirumangalam bypoll due to take place on Friday.
PTI contributed to this story.
ajay.s@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Jan 05 2009. 11 44 PM IST