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August 22, 2000
Jayalalitha, pan-Tamil parties plot Karunanidhi's downfall
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
An electoral ally calls another names, which is nothing shocking in present-day politics. But a mother calling her son, both politicians of some consequence, half-baked and all that? Veerappan has made it happen.
The people in question are Tamil Nadu Congress president E V K S Elangovan and his politician-mother E V K Sulochana Sampath, who is also the convenor of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagan's women's wing.
Seeking to demonstrate her loyalty to her dear leader and AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha, Sulochana called her son names, half-baked being the mildest among them.
Jayalalithat, sources feel, is behind the ugly turn of events. "Jayalalitha seems focused only on embarrassing the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagan and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, irrespective of the larger consequences," says a senior Congress leader in Tamil Nadu.
It all started with Jayalalitha condemning the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for yielding to the pressure-tactics of Veerappan. She also accused them of enacting a drama scripted by her political bete noire, M Karunanidhi.
Elangovan, whose party colleague, S M Krishna, happens to be the chief minister of Karnataka, took offence.
"It is not for Jayalalitha to decide whether or not Krishna should quit," Elangovan said. "Congress president Sonia Gandhi will," he thundered seeking to defend Krishna. Unintentionally, he also defended Karunanidhi. This led to Sulochana Sampath calling him names.
Indications are that the subterranean anti-Tamil feelings in Karnataka, whipped up when Dr Rajakumar was kidnapped, may resurface after he is released. "The pan-Tamil militants who are in cohorts with Veerappan are looking forward to it. It would enable them to consolidate public opinion, in Tamil Nadu, in their favour, possibly in time for the assembly elections. This constituency, which was assiduously built over the Sri Lankan issue through the eighties, was lost with Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. Any consolidation, even at the cost of the Tamils in Karnataka, is welcome. Or, so it seems."
Thus, the Karnataka government is saddled with three different tasks: to prevent anti-Tamil riots, ensure Dr Rajakumar's release and capture Veerappan. "It was working on the emotional and psychological aspect through a calculated, low-profile media campaign till Jayalalitha's statement came in the way," says the source.
In this context, the source refers to Elangovan calling on Dr Rajakumar's family, reportedly at the instance of Krishna's strategists. "The idea is to minimize the impact of any anti-Tamil riot by focusing on the fact that not all Tamils are militants or anti-Kannadigas. By bracketing Krishna with Karunanidhi, who is still seen by sections of the intelligentsia as being sympathetic to pan-Tamil militant causes, the AIADMK leadership is not doing us any good," the Congress leader explains.
DMK sources say that Jayalalitha's statements painting Karunanidhi as a silent protector, if not an admirer, of Veerappan may end up aggravating the anti-Tamil sentiment in Karnataka, particularly in the Bangalore-Mysore belt where Tamils form a sizeable proportion of the population.
"Any anti-Tamil riots in Karnataka would have a backlash in Tamil Nadu. An attempt would be made to project Karunanidhi as an insincere and ineffective leader wedded to Tamil militancy in an election year."
In this context, government sources speak of a possible crackdown on Veerappan once Dr Rajakumar's safety is ensured. First, it's a simple question of letting the law take its own course.
Second, the very credibility the state has been challenged. Someone has been thumbing his nose at it for far too long.
Politically, the ruling DMK will have a lot to answer for. It cannot afford to be seen as yielding to every one of the outlaw's 'unlawful demands'.
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