A day after he reportedly said Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was not a terrorist, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on Monday did a U-turn saying the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was indeed a terrorist outfit.
As Tamil Nadu was hit by a political storm after Karunanidhi made the initial remarks on Sunday, the DMK chief said the Tamil Tigers began as a liberation group but turned terrorist later.
"They did not start off as a terrorist group. They began as a liberation group but it has now become a terrorist organisation," Times Now TV quoted him as saying, referring to the LTTE.
Karunanidhi also insisted that the people had not forgotten Sriperumbudur -- the small town near Chennai where a LTTE suicide bomber assassinated former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally in May 1991.
"We have not forgotten Sriperumbudur," the chief minister said, speaking in Tamil, adding he had been misquoted a day earlier.
The chief minister, however, maintained that he would keep asking for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, where the military is preparing to overwhelm the last LTTE bastion in Mullaitivu district.
On Sunday, Karunanidhi created a stir by reportedly telling another television channel that he did not see Prabhakaran as a terrorist and that the elusive guerrilla leader "is my good friend".
He was also quoted as saying that the LTTE's goal of carving out an independent Tamil homeland was right but the method used to achieve it was wrong.
He added he would "deeply regret" if Prabhakaran got killed in fighting.
Karunanidhi's flip-flop came as the Congress, which props the DMK government in Tamil Nadu and which is his sole major ally in the Lok Sabha elections, insisted that the LTTE was very much a terrorist group.
"Prabhakaran is a terrorist ... and LTTE is a prospcribed terrorist organisation," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said in New Delhi. He added that the Congress and DMK "agree to totally disagree" over LTTE.
The Sri Lankan conflict has become a major campaign theme in Tamil Nadu, a sprawling state of nearly 70 million Tamils separated from the island nation by a narrow strip of sea.
Karunanidhi's comments on Sunday, including one that "Prabhakaran's group has taken to terrorism but that is not his (Prabhakaran's) fault", drew strong criticism in Sri Lanka.