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Spoilsport Karunanidhi

india Updated: Sep 10, 2006 17:54 IST
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Tamil political circles in Colombo feel that the indefinite postponement of the meeting between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs and the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in New Delhi may have been at least partially due to the intense rivalry between two top Tamil Nadu politicians.

The Colombo-based Tamil daily Virakesari reported on Sunday, that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi did not like the Sri Lankan Tamil MPs meeting the Indian Prime Minister courtesy Vaiko, his bitter rival and leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK).

The paper said that the TNA MPs had asked for an appointment with Karunanidhi two days earlier, but had got no reply.

While Karunanidhi's Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is an important partner in the ruling coalition in New Delhi, Vaiko's MDMK is outside the alliance, having had to quit it following a quarrel with the DMK.

Virakesari said that it was due to Vaiko's initiative that Dr Singh had agreed to meet the Tamil MPs from the troubled island, and that a meeting was even fixed, albeit tentatively, for Friday September 8.

If the meeting had taken place, Vaiko would have walked away with the credit, and Karunanidhi would have been isolated on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, which is an increasingly emotive issue in Tamil Nadu.

Karunanidhi will certainly like the meeting with Singh to take place at his initiative or his blessings, even if it is arranged by the Mandarins of the Prime Minister's office and the Ministry of External Affairs.

Friday's appointment did not come through ostensibly because the Prime Minister's schedule was too tight on account of his imminent departure for Havana for the Non-Aligned Summit, and also the crisis created by the twin blasts in the communally sensitive town of Malegaon in Congress-ruled Maharashtra.

The TNA MPs told Virakesari that they were determined to meet the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and all other leaders in Tamil Nadu before going to New Delhi to meet the Prime Minister, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the leaders of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Significance of meeting with Singh

If the Indian Prime Minister were to meet the Lankan Tamil MPs, it would be the first time, in the last 16 years.

After the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 by the LTTE, the Indian political leadership, especially the Prime Minister, had not met Sri Lankan Tamil MPs supporting the LTTE.

The TNA exists courtesy LTTE, and speaks for it unabashedly in parliament and outside.

The TNA, with 22 MPs in a 225-strong Sri Lankan parliament, is the biggest Tamil group in the House.

Therefore, the TNA's plea that the top Indian leadership should meet them as it does major groups in parliament, cannot be easily brushed aside.

And the emerging political scenario in Tamil Nadu favours such a meeting.

But an Indian PM-TNA meeting could raise the hackles in the majority Sinhala community in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan government, which depends on the support of the majority community.

There will be a question as to how the government of India can do business with a group, which is avowedly pro-LTTE, an organisation banned in India.

But India cannot ignore the Tamils and the TNA. India is committed to safeguarding the interests of the Tamil as per the India-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987.

Geopolitical and domestic Indian interests also dictate that New Delhi opens and maintains a dialogue with the TNA, a legitimate, over-ground Tamil political group.

Sinhala radicals also want to meet Singh

Predictably, to counter the TNA's move to meet the Indian Prime Minister, the ultra Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) has also expressed a wish to meet him.

The JHU leader Venerable Ellawela Medhananda Thero told the state-owned Sunday Observer that his party would meet the Indian Prime Minister to tell him that Sri Lanka Tamils wanted to live in a democratic Sri Lanka and not under the LTTE.

Medhananda Thero said that the Indian PM had declined to meet the TNA MPs because he knew that they were nothing but the voice of the LTTE chief, Prabhakaran.

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