THE AIADMK cadres could scarcely believe their ears at what their supremo, J Jayalalithaa was saying. She raged against the Indian government, appearing almost to be speaking for the beleaguered LTTE, the rebel group fighting for a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka.
“Not only did India supply arms and ammunition to Sri Lanka, it also trained the Lankan army to fight the Tamils. The UPA government (in New Delhi) and the DMK government (in Tamil Nadu) are active collaborators in the Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka,” she declared in Chennai, where her day-long fast on the Lankan Tamils issue marked a new milestone in her political career.
A bitter critic of the LTTE until not too long ago, Jayalalithaa now heads an alliance in which two pro-LTTE parties, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) are constituents.
The AIADMK-led alliance is set to make the Sri Lankan Tamils its focus in the Lok Sabha polls. “It will be an important issue,” party MP V Maithreyan told TEHELKA.
‘Prabakaran is my good friend. Some people in his group have taken to terrorism but that is not his fault’
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi
in an interview to NDTV.
On April 16, Jayalalithaa launched a no holds barred attack against Chief Minister and DMK leader M Karunanidhi. She taunted Karunanidhi for his contradictory statements on the LTTE and its chief, Prabakaran. Karunanidhi, she alleged, remained silent as India provided weapons and training to the Sri Lankan army. She dismissed DMK MPs’ threats of resignation and the DMK’s human chain protest over the issue as mere political theatre.
The AIADMK manifesto states that it will strive for a cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka. “If these moves fail, the AIADMK will press for a separate State of Eelam to ensure that Tamils in the island live a life of dignity,” it says.
Jayalalithaa’s and Karunanidhi’s roles are now reversed. As Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa had cracked down on LTTE supporters. Many were booked under the POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act). One of them was MDMK leader Vaiko, who was jailed for 19 months before getting bail. In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Vaiko’s MDMK joined Karunanidhi’s DMK led alliance, which included the Congress, the Left parties and the PMK. They swept the polls, winning all 39 Tamil Nadu seats and the Puducherry seat.
Now, Karunanidhi is gunning for LTTE supporters. His minority government needs the support of Congress legislators, who have no love lost for the LTTE. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the DMK government invoked the National Security Act (NSA) against many LTTE supporters. Those detained under the NSA include MDMK and Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK) leaders.
THE DMK, however, is now a weaker political force than it was during the last general elections. Most of its former allies are with the AIADMK now. It is left only with the Congress and a new ally, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal (VC), a pro-LTTE party headed by the fiery dalit leader Thirumavalavan. The VC was part of the Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement, which included the MDMK and the PMK. However, unlike the PMK, which switched to the AIADMK camp, the VC chose to remain a DMK ally.
The AIADMK’s party manifesto states it will strive for a cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka
Jayalalithaa’s day-long fast last month for the Lankan Tamils came as a surprise for the DMK government. Subsequently, as Jayalalithaa expected, the PMK joined her alliance. “Not only are we going to win all 40 seats, we will win them by a big margin,” boasted S Ramadoss, the PMK chief.
The AIADMK supremo is receiving support from unexpected quarters. Pro-LTTE outfits are campaigning against her rivals. “We will work for the defeat of the Congress– DMK front,” says Viduthalai Rajendran, PDK General Secretary. The PDK has circulated thousands of VCDs containing footage from the Lankan war zone. The CDs show horrific scenes of deaths and suffering borne by the Tamils there. The CD then shows Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shaking hands with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “Are you going to vote for them?” the PDK asks.
VCDs of footage from the Lankan war zone and of Tamil suffering are being circulated
Caught on the wrong foot, the DMK appears to be panicking. Karunanidhi, who had maintained a tough anti-LTTE stance, performed a volte face three days after Jayalalithaa started her campaign. In an interview to NDTV, he said he did not see Prabakaran as a terrorist. “Prabakaran is my good friend,” he declared.
The DMK hopes to blunt the opposition’s campaign by publicising Jayalalithaa’s past actions against the LTTE. “In her last term as CM, the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a resolution demanding the extradition of Prabakaran to India to stand trial in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. She has taken up this issue only for the polls. We will expose her before the people” vows TKS Elangovan, the DMK’s organising secretary and the party’s candidate from north Chennai. Whose campaign will prevail? The people will give their verdict on May 13, when Tamil Nadu votes.