In Tamil Nadu politics, wheel has turned full circle over Sri Lanka

New Delhi, April 28 (Inditop) Tamil Nadu’s political circus over the Sri Lankan conflict is a virtual copy of the 1980s but for a key difference: the Tamil Tigers were poised to grow then; now they face a deathly crisis.

Once anti-Tamil riots engulfed Colombo in July 1983, the same DMK and AIADMK – the latter ruled Tamil Nadu then – took on one another to show who supported Sri Lanka’s Tamils more.

DMK chief M. Karunanidhi was the opposition leader at that time and M.G. Ramachandran or MGR was the AIADMK chief minister.

Riding on the sympathy wave for the ordinary Sri Lankan Tamils, whose plight in 1983 was equally pitiable, MGR quickly took the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) under his protective wings.

LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was an unknown figure just then. A quick learner, he grasped the ways of the Indian political system. Once in the good books of MGR, he ignored Karunanidhi, immensely pleasing MGR.

Proximity to MGR provided a shield vis-�-vis the central government, which the Congress headed even then.

Slighted by Prabhakaran, Karunanidhi showered his favours on a rival Tamil militant leader who the LTTE gunned down in 1986.

But once MGR died in 1987, by when the LTTE had taken on the Indian Army in Sri Lanka’s northeast, Prabhakaran extended a hand of friendship to Karunanidhi who eagerly grasped it.

Karunanidhi returned to power in Tamil Nadu in 1989, and immediately turned pro-LTTE. The Tigers had a free run in Tamil Nadu. New Delhi axed his government in January 1991.

So, when the LTTE assassinated former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, the DMK paid a heavy price for its links with the Tigers. It was wiped out in the assembly elections.

The AIADMK reaped the political harvest and embraced a stridently anti-LTTE line. Chief Minister Jayalalitha ordered a sweeping police crackdown, breaking up the painstakingly built LTTE network across the state.

Amid popular revulsion over Gandhi’s killing, the Tigers went into a shell in Tamil Nadu.

It took some years before Vaiko, who broke away from the DMK to form the MDMK, and PMK’s chief S. Ramadoss to start speaking for the Tigers, and vocally too.

In 1997, the Congress pulled down the coalition government of Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral over the DMK’s alleged links to the killing of Rajiv Gandhi. In her next stint as chief minister, Jayalalitha jailed Vaiko, then a Lok Sabha member, for 19 long months over a pro-LTTE speech.

Today, the wheels have turned in Tamil Nadu, almost a full circle.

Jayalalitha and Vaiko are now allies. Jayalalitha has declared that only an independent Tamil Eelam state will end Sri Lanka’s conflict. The Congress is today a DMK ally.

The DMK is neither here nor there vis-�-vis the Tamil Eelam cause. Even as he sounds pro-LTTE, Tiger supporters spew venom at Karunanidhi.

More than two decades after it earned the LTTE’s wrath for signing an accord with Sri Lanka to end Tamil separatism, the Congress is again at the receiving end for pursuing a pro-Colombo policy.

The LTTE in the 1980s was a guerrilla group whose future growth into one of the world’s deadliest insurgent outfits no one had predicted.

The same Tigers are now battling for survival.

But then as now, Tamil Nadu, separated from Sri Lanka by a strip of sea, has proved to be a lifeline for the LTTE.