Bangalore: To avert a potential fallout with key ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) flew senior Congress leader and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee to Chennai to brief chief minister M. Karunanidhi on the progress in talks over the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.
Mutual understanding: The Union government’s envoy, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, with Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi in Chennai on Sunday. PTI
Parties in Tamil Nadu have been talking tough on developments in Sri Lanka. The military there has mounted an offensive in the northern and eastern provinces against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)—an armed movement banned in India following its assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The DMK, which heads the Democratic Progressive Alliance in the state, is a key ally of the UPA at the Centre with 16 parliamentarians including seven ministers, and has been threatening that its members of Parliament would resign if the Indian government did not act to help the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
“We will look at the humanitarian needs and every assurance has been given” Basil Rajapaksa, senior adviser to Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa told reporters in New Delhi in a televised address after meeting with Mukherjee.
Karunanidhi has assured Mukherjee that DMK will not precipitate a political crisis for the UPA government.
India is concerned about the plight of civilians displaced by the fighting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on 18 October.
Analysts say the recent developments have given parties in Tamil Nadu—for long supporters of the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils—an opportunity to score over each other especially as national elections are due by May.
The parties could not have ignored the sentiment among cadres over the situation in Sri Lanka, said N. Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of Observer Research Foundation, a policy think tank. “In joining (the issue) they are trying to make electoral calculations,” he said. For the DMK and its alliance, the issue may help divert attention from a perceived anti-incumbency wave arising from frequent power cuts and price rises.
(Bloomberg and PTI contributed to this story.)