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July 10, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/Vazhappadi Ramamurthy

"I would even say that they (Vaiko and Ramdoss) are paid hirelings of the Jaffna Tamils..."

V Ramamurthy Tamilzhaga Rajiv Congress President Vazhappadi Ramamurthy is always in the news for his controversial and unconventional statements. There was a time when he was the closest friend of PMK leader Dr Ramdoss. After the friends became foes, Vazhappadi has not spared any effort to criticise his former friend. He also cannot tolerate anybody supporting the LTTE, the group that is responsible for the assassination of his leader, Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi remains his leader even after he parted ways with the Congress. The walls of his office and the office room at his residence are adorned with photographs of only Rajiv Gandhi.

Now the MDMK has also become the target of Vazhappdi's anger for its unconditional support to the LTTE. He told the central government to ban the MDMK and the PMK and requested Union Home Minister L K Advani to abstain from the Erode conference of the MDMK. The National Democratic Alliance, of which he is a partner, did not ban the parties. And some senior ministers of the NDA even attended the conference.

Here, Ramamurthy airs his views on these and other issues to Shobha Warrier.

For the last few weeks, you have been asking for a ban on the MDMK and the PMK for supporting the LTTE. You didn't want the home minister to attend the conference of the MDMK at Erode. But the MDMK held its meeting, where Advani and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu attended. What is your reaction?

The MDMK always played a dubious role. Whenever they are in Tamil Nadu, they raise loud voices in support of Eelam. This is because they want to compete with the DMK and the others who support Sri Lankan Tamils. In fact, when Vaiko first announced the conference, the issue of Tamil Eelam was not relevant. It was only a district conference of the party. When the Sri Lankan issue became significant, that became the topic of the conference. At that point, those who had accepted the invitation could not go back on their word and back out of the conference.

Moreover, at the conference, Advani had said that there was no question of supporting the division of Sri Lanka. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu also felt that nobody should support a separate Tamil Eelam. So, in a way, it came as a blessing in disguise. All invitees supported the Centre's stand. Ultimately, the MDMK had to pass a resolution announcing that they had accepted the Indian government's stand on the Sri Lankan issue.

The only person who openly talked in favour of a separate Eelam was PMK's Dr Ramdoss. Politically and in all other aspects, he will be isolated in Tamil Nadu politics.

But Vaiko played a safe role by not antagonising or embarrassing the Centre.

Vaiko is known for his dubious role! He wanted to escape criticism and he also didn't want a confrontation, especially when Advani and the others were there. So he mellowed down the party's resolutions and its deliberations. In fact, he changed the name of the conference several times. First, it was a district conference. Then it became a Tamil Renaissance Conference. Then it became a Tamil Nadu Renaissance Conference. Then it was theMarumalarchi DMK Renaissance Conference. Ultimately it was only a district conference!

You asked for a ban on the MDMK and the PMK. Now that the MDMK is passing resolutions supporting the central government, do you still stand by your demand?

I still stand by my demand. Yes, the MDMK passed a resolution supporting the government. But I don't feel they will be faithful to the resolution. Whenever they get a chance, they will only clamour for a separate Eelam. A proverb in Tamil says, `you cannot straighten a dog's tail!'

There were photographs of party cadres sporting photographs of Prabhakaran on their shirts.

Yes, I too saw the photographs in The Hindu. Didn't I tell you about the true colours of these people? Vaiko wanted to play a dubious, careful role by hiding the real truth, but the workers could not hide the truth.

All political parties in India, except these two, support the Centre's stand. As leader of the TRC, a political party from Tamil Nadu, why are these two parties are supporting the LTTE?

I won't say that they are carrying on because of their convictions. I came to know that the LTTE Jaffna Tamils were very close to these two leaders (Vaiko and Ramdoss). They were provided all facilities to run their parties. They are paid hirelings of the Tamils. They are supported on all fronts by the Jaffna Tamils!

Vaiko is dubious. Whenever he meets Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, he will tell him, `Sir, your stand on Sri Lanka is very correct. We agree with you.' But once he is back from Delhi, he changes. At Chennai airport itself, he will say, 'A separate Eelam is the only answer to the Sri Lankan problem'.

You and TNCC President Elangovan asked for a ban on the MDMK and the PMK. How do you expect the government to ban them when they are partners of the NDA?

The government of India is ignoring them maybe because except for these two parties and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, nobody has supported the LTTE. But the height of ignorance is George Fernandes, the Union Defence Minister. He said he never knew that Vaiko was a supporter of a separate Eelam! This is the joke of the day. I don't know whether these ministers have any vision.

Are you happy with the way the NDA government handled the Sri Lankan crisis?

Yes, I am satisfied. Taking into account what happened when the Indian Peace-Keeping Force was sent there in the Eighties, what the Indian government has done now is very satisfactory. The NDA government's decision is the result of mature diplomacy.

Don't you think Vaiko has become a hero in Tamil Nadu?

V Ramamurthy

If he had spoken and behaved like he is doing now before 1991, he may have become a hero. But not now. After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, nobody in Tamil Nadu wants to support the LTTE. Sri Lankan Tamils, particularly the LTTE and Jaffna Tamils, have lost the sympathy of the people of Tamil Nadu.

After passing an autonomy resolution in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, Farooq Abdullah justified his stand at Erode. Prakash Singh Badal supported him and demanded more autonomy for Punjab. The MDMK passed a resolution at the meeting demanding more autonomy to states. You were with the Congress for very long. What do you say about their demands?

India had seen more turbulence before. These are very minor, compared to what we experienced earlier. Political insecurity might have forced Abdullah to go ahead with the resolution. The situation will not go out of our hands.

Chief Minister M Karunanidhi also echoed the sentiments.

More autonomy does not mean secessionism. On the other hand, Adbullah passed a resolution in the American model of federalism. American democracy is more than 200 years old and we are only 53 years old. You can't expect a five-year-old to participate in the Olympics, can you?

I am not against autonomy. States should be given more powers but it should be done slowly.

Is there any chance of you going back to the Congress? Now you seem to agree more with the Congress than with the NDA.

Not at all. I have had an umpteen number of chances to do so, but I didn't. The TRC will remain a state-level party.

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