Tamil question knocking on the doors of Delhi
Sinhala Owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 8 March 1998
It appears almost certain that the BJP will come to power in
India. And it is possible that the party might run a stable
government for a full term in the Indian Parliament, contrary to
predictions that the subcontinent is headed for another round of
elections in an year or two.
The UF government was dependent on the Congress party for its
survival. But there is no need for the BJP to depend on either the
Congress or the UF. It has only to placate some small parties to
survive its full term, the way the PA has survived so far in our
Parliament with pre-polls allies like the SLMC, LSSP, and the CP.
The BJP's main pre-poll ally today is the AIADMK and its partners
from TamilNadu. AIADMK's chief associates today are Dr. Ramdoss' PMK
and V. Gopalasamy's MDMK which have secured seven out of the thirty
nine Parliament seats in Tamil Nadu. (V. Gopalasamy won in the
Sivakaasy electorate by a massive majority of hundred and forty
The PMK and the MDMK officially hold the position that the only
viable solution to the Tamil question in Sri Lanka is the
establishment of theseparate state of Tamil Eelam. V. Gopalasamy,
speaking to the press soon after the results became known, said one
of the reasons for the DMK's defeat was Karunanidhi's failure to
wipe the tears of blood shed by the Eelam Tamils. Dr. Ramdoss, the
leader of the PMK expressed similar sentiments to the Paris-based
Tamil paper 'Eelamurasu'. He pointed out that the Sonia's campaign
had no impact on the Tamils.
In the same issue of the paper the secretary and a top rung leader
of the BJP, Govindachcharya said the BJP government will not support
a military policy by the Sri Lankan government to solve the conflict
in the northeast and that his party would approach the Tamil
question in Sri Lanka withsympathy.
The success of the BJP's alliance with the AIDMK, PMK and the MDMK
will mean that Tamil Nadu will again play a key role in the event of
the BJP forming the government at the centre. The main external
component of the BJP's 251 seats is from Tamil Nadu.
This was the case in the outgoing United Front government as well,
in which Tamil Nadu chief minister
and the leader of the Thamilaha Maanila Congress, G.K Moopanar were
powerful players. Both parties took key ministries in the central
government. Karunanidhi's nephew Murasoli Maran was the minister of
Industries and P. Chidambaram was Minister of Finance. And Tamil
Nadu was on the verge of having one of its own as the prime minister
of India for the first time when Moopanar emerged as the compromise
candidate of the United Front after Deve Gowda was forced to step
down as prime minister.
The DMK-TMC alliance made it a point to drive this home during their
campaign for the Parliamentary elections.
Today, (the Indian Parliament) cannot decide anything without the
approval of Tamil Nadu MPs. Even at the international level, Tamil
ministers represent the country. While I met US President Bill
Clinton, Anna Maran met British Prime minister Tony Blair. So you
must vote for me to form our(Tamil) government at the centre, P.
Chidambaram told voters in the run upto the polls.
The Tamil Nadu factor will be important in the BJP government as
In the UF government it did not translate into anything positive for
the Eelam cause mainly because the DMK, aware of the UF government's
dependence on the precarious support of the Congress, generally
stuck to the Sri Lankan policy determined mostly by the Delhi
This might not be the case if the BJP forms a stable government with
the support of small parties. V. Gopalasamy, for example, may not
have to look over his shoulder every time he has to speak in support
of the Eelam causein the Indian Parliament. There are two important
developments which we have to take note of here.
The Congress party has been completely routed in Tamil Nadu.
Sonia's campaign did not have any impact on the Tamils - in
Sriperumpudur, where Rajiv was killed, the AIDMK won despite its
alliance with the PMK and the MDMK which support the LTTE which is
accused of killing her husband.
Reviving the fortunes of the Congress in the state, as it was
possible in Maharashtra or Karnataka, is extremely remote now.
Valappaady Ramamoorthy,the last local leader of the party with some
mass appeal, has formed his ownminor regional outfit which is
essentially a one-man show, looking up to theAIDMK for survival.
The Congress has had deep historical political roots in Tamil Nadu.
As such, it was the sole all India level challenge to the Tamil
nationalists of Tamil Nadu, providing an alternative to the
emergence of strong regionalism in the state.
In fact, the MDMK and the PMK joined hands with the BJP, which
stands for everything that is ideologically anathema to them, for
the tactical purpose of 'hammering in the last nail on the Congress
party's coffin in Tamil Nadu.'
This they appear to have achieved by teaming up with the AIDMK and
The other, national level alternative, the BJP is a complete new
comer to the state and has a long way to go even to make a minor
dent in the Tamil polity.
The overall trend which one discerns today in Tamil Nadu is that the
two national level parties- the BJP and the Congress- have to depend
almost totally on local parties - the big ones as well as the small
ones. (The BJP had separate discussions with Dr. Ramdoss soon after
the results of the elections were announced.)
This is what one should consider geo politically significant to the
future of the Sri Lankan polity. But PA government has been patently
worried that the BJP might follow a policy on Sri Lanka that could
favour the Liberation Tigers .
Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, who has time and again
demonstrated his personal determination to crush the Eelam cause at
whatever the cost, made it a point to meet BJP's prime ministerial
candidate Atal Bihari Vajpayee to supposedly get an assurance from
him that the BJP will not bring about any changes to Delhi's current
line on the Sri Lankan Tamil question. Mr. Kadirgamar was obviously
prompted to make the move following reports that representatives of
the Liberation Tigers had met leaders of the Shiv Sena, the BJP's
other face in Maharashtra, and secured their support for the Eelam
cause. Mr. Kadirgamar got it wrong here.
The Liberation Tigers are playing a more subtle game.
They appear to think that it is enough if a BJP government were to
restrain some Delhi officials whom they consider to be overzealously
supportive of the PA's military drive in the north. There can be no
doubt that Dr. Ramdoss and V. Gopalasamy will deliver on this
expectation to some degree. Prabhakaran might be content to leave
all else in the long term to the consolidation of a strong
regionalist trend in Tamil Nadu which might continue to have an
impact on the power politics of Delhi.
Mr. Kadirgamar, being a suave Colombo based lawyer, cannot, of
course, beheld responsible for failing to mark the long term
trajectory of the Tamil political mind on either side of the Palk
Straits and in the Diaspora.