The Sri Lankan Tamils issue has been pitchforked to the centrestage in the run up to the May 13 Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu with political parties bringing into sharp focus the “humanitarian crisis” in the embattled north of the island nation.
With the Sri Lankan Army penetrating deep into the LTTE strongholds and several lakhs of civilians trapped in the war zone, the demand for India’s intervention to bring about a ceasefire has become more strident by the day, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Almost all parties have highlighted the issue in their manifestos demanding cessation of the hostilities. Raising the pitch to a new high, DMK President and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has even called for snapping of “all diplomatic ties” with Sri Lanka if it did not respond to India’s appeal for a permanent ceasefire.
Stepping up pressure on the UPA government of which his party is a key constituent, Karunanidhi last week sent telegrams to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on breaking diplomatic ties.
Karunanidhi’s demand came after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed deep concern over the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka and appealed to the Rajapaksa government to respond to the Tamil civilian problem.
The Lankan Tamil issue has also provided an ammunition for the political parties to question each other’s credentials and concern in fighting for the Tamils cause.
Generating more heat to the already burning issue, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa, has in recent weeks become highly vocal on the Tamils issue and undertook a fast last month to press the Centre to bring about a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.
Ever since she moved into a high gear on the issue, targeting the Congress and the DMK, the pre-poll scene has been marked by heightened recriminations and trading of charges and counter-charges by the arch rivals.
Mocking at Karunanidhi’s call for breaking diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka, Jayalalithaa has dubbed it as a “drama” and an “empty threat”.
In her campaign speeches, she has been focusing sharply on the Sri Lankan issue, accusing the UPA government and DMK of not taking any effective steps for a ceasefire and end the “plight of the Tamils caught in crossfire”.
Parties in the AIADMK front -- the CPI, CPI (M) and pro-LTTE MDMK and PMK -- have also come down on UPA and DMK for doing little to mitigate Lankan Tamils’ sufferings.
BJP too has said it would raise the issue as a “foreign policy failure” of the UPA government. Its Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani said at an MDMK rally in Delhi last month that the issue should be seen as that of every Indian.
With its bitter foe AIADMK going all out to corner it, the DMK in its manifesto has warned against using the Sri Lankan Tamils issue for electoral politics.
Pro-LTTE Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam has brought out a CD reportedly asking voters to boycott Congress “for failing to ensure a ceasefire”, infuriating the latter which has complained to Election Commission against it.