DMK first family stands divided on Lanka Tamil issue

Karunanidhi on Lanka issue

– Submitted by Walter Jayawardhana –

On the morning of March 19, the DMK headquarters witnessed celebrations usually reserved for big electoral victories. DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi had chosen to “honour” Tamil sentiments and pulled the plug on the UPA government at the Centre over its unwillingness to take on Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes against Tamils.

While DMK cadres believed that the decision would be a game changer with Lok Sabha elections round the corner, they could just be celebrating a little too early. While the move won brownie points for the party among the masses, closer home, it opened up huge fissures in Karunanidhi’s clan.

DMK upping the ante on the Sri Lankan issue has largely been seen as a move orchestrated entirely by Stalin, one that has not gone down well with his older half-brother Alagiri. According to a senior functionary, Alagiri considered it an attempt to clip his wings and move him out of New Delhi. “The very idea of giving Alagiri a Cabinet post was to pacify him as Stalin was made the number two in Tamil Nadu. But now, Alagiri feels that is being snatched away,” said a senior Madurai leader.

Over the last two years, a common perception in the state has been that DMK was moving away from crusading for the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils. That mantle was taken up by Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa. Though highly critical of the LTTE and its methods, she strongly pitched for the rights of Tamils and even passed a resolution in the State Assembly that sought economic sanctions on the island nation.

On the other hand, since 2009, the DMK has been accused in various quarters of hoodwinking the Tamil race by being hand-in-glove with the Congress on the Sri Lankan issue. Time and again, pro-Tamil groups have charged Karunanidhi of favouring the preferences of his own family over that of the sensitive ethnic issue. It is now a accepted even within the DMK that the farcical breakfast-to-lunch fast that Karunanidhi undertook in 2009, when the Sri Lankan army’s onslaught on the Tamils was at its peak, was the lowest point of his career. This issue had a huge bearing on the outcome of the 2011 Assembly elections.

It was perhaps in 2011 that DMK began to realise that having truck with the Congress was no longer beneficial at the hustings, given a re-emergence of deep sympathy for the Sri Lankan Tamils in the state in the post-LTTE era.

With the electoral rout of 2011 in mind, DMK decided that it had to wriggle out of a relationship with the Congress. And it is in this context Karunanidhi revived the long defunct Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation (TESO) last year.

Its first conference ran into rough weather after the Centre intervened and objected to the use of the term Eelam in its resolutions.

Its latest conference in New Delhi in March, on the other hand, failed to fulfil its objective of bringing a cross section of political parties on the same platform. But political observers felt that the March TESO conference had another motive that completely backfired and turned out to be counter-productive. A DMK leader from Madurai said meet was basically an attempt to pitchfork Stalin on the national stage given that he led the conference. This came within months of the DMK patriarch announcing that Stalin would be his successor for the party chief’s post. While it was supposed to be a show of strength for the party, the differences in the family came to fore with Alagiri failing to make an appearance.

The question now in DMK is which of the two sons will rise in the party before the 2016 Assembly polls.

(Source: The Sunday Standard)