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July 31, 2000
Tamil Nadu's emissary to meet Veerappan soon
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has promised his Karnataka counterpart, S M Krishna, that he will spare no efforts to secure the release of Kannada actor Rajakumar, who was kidnapped by sandalwood smuggler Veerappan on Sunday.
Veerappan has given the Tamil Nadu government eight days to send an emissary to discuss the issue.
"We are planning to send an emissary soon," Karunanidhi told reporters after talks with Krishna and the actor's wife, Parvathamma Rajakumar.
While no names were mentioned, Karunanidhi said it would not be a 'political personality'. The name of R Rajagopal, or Gopal, editor of Tamil magazine Nakkeeran, has naturally cropped up. Gopal was the first to run an interview of Veerappan in his magazine and later did a full-length video interview himself. Gopal is the only outsider to know the man, his moods and psyche.
But Gopal may be hesitant to take up the assignment. "Veerappan cannot be trusted, nor can he be expected to behave like a human being," he said only hours after news of the kidnap broke.
While the two state governments are hopeful of solving the issue, both chief ministers are making subtle efforts to pass the responsibility to the other.
"It's tricky and we cannot afford to get caught in it," says a senior Tamil Nadu minister involved in the talks. "But there is the law-and-order situation to worry about. It can spill over from one state to the other, if tensions are allowed to rise. The memories of the anti-Tamil riots of 1992 are still fresh, we cannot afford any wrong political moves that could upset Rajakumar fans in Karnataka."
"With the actor's wife around, there was little scope for frank discussions today," says an informed source. "It's too ticklish for the two sides to discuss their difficulties in handling Veerappan with her around."
In this context, Krishna gets full marks for rushing to Madras immediately. When Veerappan had earlier kidnapped five Karnataka scientists Krishna's predecessor J H Patel had let Karunanidhi handle the situation. Veerappan later released the hostages after a prolonged exercise.
There are also indications that mutual suspicions involving Veerappan, Gopal and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government may run deeper, and this may come in the way of identifying an emissary soon.
But Karnataka sources refer to the cassette sent by Veerappan, which mentions Karunanidhi by name and urges him to send an emissary to 'discuss my problems'.
Says a Karnataka official: "We are not trying to pass the buck to Tamil Nadu. Veerappan himself has made it clear that he trusts Karunanidhi and the Tamil Nadu government."
The Tamil Nadu government is also cautious not to give cause for any caste-based political issue to arise from the kidnap drama.
"Veerappan is a Vanniyar, and some Vanniyar-based parties like the Pattali Makkal Katchi, now an ally of the DMK in the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre, have publicly expressed support for Veerappan. That could make things even more difficult," says the Tamil Nadu minister.
The chief ministers have kept Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani also in the picture, given the larger ramifications, especially since Parliament is in session.
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