Even as chief minister M Karunanidhi called for a bandh on Thursday to express solidarity with Sri Lankan Tamils, a humanitarian crisis loomed large as thousands fled the war-zone and many sought refuge in India.
The tremors were felt in Delhi too. Succumbing to DMK pressure, the Congress called upon the Sri Lankan government to declare a ceasefire. “The Indian National Congress calls upon the government to declare a ceasefire so that the humanitarian crisis can be resolved in a demonstrable way,” said a party statement.
Inflation is soaring close to the ‘no-fire zone’ (NFZ) in Mullaitivu. “A kilo of sugar costs Rs 3,000 (Sri Lankan rupees) and that too is very hard to come by,” said 28-year-old Vijayakumar, among the refugees who managed to escape from Mullaitivu and reach Indian shores on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, as concerns over the fate of the LTTE Chief Prabhakaran mounted, Karunanidhi called for a bandh (general strike).
“Already ‘bandh-calls’ by the DMK on other issues have been criticised by the Supreme Court. How will another bandh help stop the war in Sri Lanka?” asked AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa during an election rally in Paramakudi, about 75 km from Madurai, on Wednesday afternoon.
“This (bandh call) is just yet another drama by Karunanidhi when the Centre should ask Sri Lanka to declare a ceasefire,” ‘Amma’ thundered and added that the AIADMK’s poll campaign will go on as scheduled. Jaya herself will address a rally in Madurai on Thursday in support of CPM candidate P Mohan.
Already under fire from the opposition, the DMK-Congress combine is beginning to feel the heat as the Lanka siege threatens to cast a shadow over the elections. Party managers are already in a tizzy over whether candidates should file their nominations tomorrow after the ‘bandh’ call.
April 24 is the last date to file nominations for the last phase of polling in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on May 13. Congress and DMK nominees are yet to file their papers.