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TN poll verdict not to impact Sri Lanka

DMK's victory in Tamil Nadu won't have any impact unless a war erupts in the island.

india Updated: May 12, 2006 11:40 IST

The victory of the DMK-led alliancein Tamil Nadu is not expected to have any impact on Sri Lanka unless war erupts in the island and Tamil refugees flee to the Indian state in large numbers.

Sri Lanka watchers, security officials and political sources in Chennai say there will be no change in the stand of the DMK, once a shrill supporter of Tamil Eelam that has distanced itself from that country's unending conflict and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

DMK chief Karunanidhi has not forgotten the terrible political price he paid in the 1991 elections when his DMK was sent packing by voters disgusted with its close ties with the LTTE, which had that year assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

His foe Jayaram Jayalalithaa, who succeeded him, desperately wanted Karunanidhi arrested or at least his house searched on charges of suspected links with the LTTE.

Karunanidhi survived because of the uprightness of top officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) who refused to play along.

By the time Karunanidhi returned to power in 1996, he was a chastened man vis-à-vis the LTTE.

With both the DMK and the AIADMK steering away from the LTTE, the task of championing the Tigers' cause was left to two smaller parties, the PMK and the MDMK.

Although the PMK is a DMK ally now, the others in the alliance that Thursday rode to power in Tamil Nadu include the Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Communist Party of India (CPI), none of which has any love for the LTTE.

Two other pro-LTTE parties, the MDMK and Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), lost the electoral battle after aligning with the AIADMK at the eleventh hour.

However, all Dravidian parties will continue to oppose an India-Sri Lanka defence agreement. Unlike others, the DMK may not make a noise about it and instead lobby against it quietly.

The reason the DMK would do this is not because of any sympathy for the LTTE but because such an accord is seen as a decisive show of support by New Delhi to the "Sinhalease-Buddhist state" in Colombo as opposed to the "Tamil side".

But because the DMK - and the PMK - are partners in the central government, they are forced to temper their words and conduct so as not to be in conflict with the country's national and strategic interests.

Vaiko's MDMK is also a part of India's ruling coalition but its influence is now tipped to wane because of the anti-DMK line it took in the polls.

Until then, Vaiko enjoyed easy access to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who even appeared to be impressed by the former on some aspects of Sri Lanka.

It is significant that Tamil Nadu parties did not make Sri Lanka a campaign issue in the May 8 elections although a warlike situation has prevailed there since December.

Tamil Nadu has come a long way since the mid-1980s when support for the Tamil Eelam cause ran deep in the sprawling state, divided from Sri Lanka by a narrow strip of sea.

In their election manifestoes, the DMK made a cursory reference to Tamil Eelam ("Efforts will be made to find ways of securing for Eelam Tamils the right to live peacefully") while the PMK and the AIADMK kept mum on the subject.

The MDMK referred to it at length but it lost badly. The same happened to DPI, whose leader Thol Thirumavalavan has spoken in favour of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

However, if a full-scale war erupts in Sri Lanka and it sends Tamils fleeing to Tamil Nadu as refugees, the situation might change.

Tamil Nadu parties - with the opposition having a sizeable strength - will also react if the Sri Lankan security forces harass or kill Tamil Nadu fishermen.

On the same lines, death and destruction in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka could trigger emotions in Tamil Nadu, although the younger generation in the state has shown no great concern for the LTTE's campaign.

However, the coming to power of Karunanidhi could provide more space to Tamil nationalist groups who wholeheartedly support the LTTE, though they had resumed their activities even during the last months of the Jayalalithaa regime.

In any case, popular support the Tigers once enjoyed in Tamil Nadu is over thanks to the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.

First Published: May 12, 2006 11:40 IST