In the first sign of a fresh trouble brewing between the UPA government and its biggest ally, the DMK walked out of the Lok Sabha on Thursday — with some men from even arch rival AIADMK and ally Congress, besides the BJP and the Janata Dal (U), in tow.
The issue was whether India should vote against Sri Lanka on a US-sponsored resolution before the UN Human Rights Commission next week on the alleged war crimes against the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.
When the DMK members, led by TR Baalu, kept on pressuring the government to support an international court of inquiry, foreign minister Salman Khurshid stuck to the PM’s statement in the Lok Sabha a day earlier that India’s position would depend on how the resolution was worded.
This is for the first time that the DMK has staged a walkout on the issue. The compulsions of Tamil Nadu politics ahead of the 2014 polls have seen the DMK attempting to queer the pitch for the UPA to outbid the AIADMK.
A day earlier, Baalu interrupted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s reply to a debate, insisting on ending the suspense on India's position.
A year ago, India had voted against Sri Lanka under the DMK's pressure, but only after working behind the scene to soften the wordings of the resolution against Colombo. Since then, the foreign ministry advised caution, lest Sri Lanka moved further into the orbit of China, its biggest trade partner.
The DMK leaders, including Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran, repeatedly asked the government not to get “scared” by the “China bogey” in forcing Colombo to act on war crimes.
But Khurshid replied: "We don't play the policeman of the world or the big brother in any country". He, however, assured that the concerns expressed by the MPs would be factored in the government's stand at the UN.
BJP's Yashwant Sinha, who is a former external affairs minister, asked the government to "wake up and think about India's stature". He suggested that India should not merely vote against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC, but "take the lead in drafting the resolution and carry it through".
Even Mulayam Singh Yadav, who supports the UPA from outside, asked UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to force the government to explain what it had done to help the Lankan Tamils.
"Soniaji, why are you silent? You have the control...please ask the PM and the external affairs minister sitting behind you about the steps taken in this regard," he said.
Significantly, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was present for most part of the debate, which saw several Congress MPs from Tamil Nadu supporting the DMK, pleading, however, for "caution" on all sides.
Late Thursday evening, the Congress leadership deputed health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Tamil Nadu Congress MPs for a much-hyped seminar organised by DMK leader MK Stalin. But since barring NCP leaders DP Tripathi and Supriya Sule, the other invitees failed to turn up, an angry Baalu asked the media to leave the venue.