Politics of blackmail

Politics of blackmail

The key to the survival of UPA-II is not Karunanidhi. It is Mulayam Singh Yadav. He would be a fool if he lets go the opportunity to force early...

The key to the survival of UPA-II is not Karunanidhi. It is Mulayam Singh Yadav. He would be a fool if he lets go the opportunity to force early elections before his son makes Samajwadi Party more unpopular with the help of people like Raja Bhayya. So, the breaking news is that elections to the Lok Sabha are round the corner notwithstanding the assurances given by Chidambaram and Kamal Nath that there is no threat to the government. Rahul Gandhi, AICC vice-president, was right in asking his MPs to be ready for any eventuality.

Mulayam Singh met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand the head of Beni Prasad Varma, a member of the Union Cabinet and a senior politician, who said Samajwadi Party was harboring terrorists. Beni's expression of regret would not suffice. Even if Beni is forced to follow the Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who apologized to the main Opposition, it will only be a temporary reprieve for the government. Mulayam can find some other excuse to pull the rug from under the feet of the UPA at his own sweet time.

Mulayam Singh, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa are more than a match to the members of the core committee of the Congress. They are seasoned leaders of regional parties, with national ambitions, who know how to protect their interests. All of them are ruthless players without sentiments. The UPA-II has been allowed to survive since 2010, when it fell on bad days, because it suits them. Mamata Banerjee is not so worried about the policy on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). She was looking for an issue as an excuse to exit the coalition in a principled manner because the UPA had become a liability by then. So is the case with Karunanidhi now.

He thinks continued association with the Congress would be counterproductive. He found a suitable issue on which he could take a principled stand and teach a lesson to the UPA for the maltreatment meted out to his darling daughter.

The Prime Minister had to swallow the insult when Mamata refused to accompany him to Dhaka to sign the Teesta treaty with Bangladesh. How can one believe Mamata when she says she would not pull down the government on a foreign policy issue? The present crisis created by Karunanidhi has more dimensions compared to the one caused by Mamata Banerjee. More than Karunanidhi, it will be Mamatha, Mulayam and Jayalalithaa who would benefit from early elections.

There are three important aspects to the present fluid situation: 1) The US-sponsored resolution before the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) which is in session at Geneva. 2) What happened in Sri Lanka and what should happen there? 3) The question of UPA compromising on its foreign policy for the sake of its survival.

The Sri Lanka resolution will be put to vote later today (Thursday 10 AM, Geneva local time). The first draft prepared by the US and European Union has been drastically diluted thanks to China and Pakistan, the friends of Sri Lanka, which worked assiduously behind the scene.

The new draft of the resolution welcomes and acknowledges the progress made by the Lankan government in rebuilding the infrastructure, demining the area and resettling the majority of the persons who were internally displaced because of the civil war. The draft resolution does not 'demand' but just 'calls upon' the Sri Lanka government to conduct independent investigation into the allegations of violation of human rights during and after the civil war.

The demand made by several human rights organizations that an independent international body should take up the investigation was not included in the draft. It also calls for rapprochement and reconciliation between the government and the people of Northern provinces, protect and promote the right of freedom of expression and many other pieces of such advice. There is nothing in the resolution that would infuriate or insult Sri Lanka.

The DMK wants the UPA government to try and introduce strong terminology in the draft by including at least two words: Tamil Eelam and Genocide. That is not going to happen. India does not have the power; nor is it advisable. It would be making Sri Lanka walk into the open arms of China which has already warmed its way into the hearts of Sinhalese. It means making Lanka another enemy among the neighboring countries. It also means undoing a lot of good work done over the years by successive governments.

Nearly four years after its civil war ended, Sri Lanka is far from at peace. President Mahinda Rajapaksha and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksha, defence secretary, who is considered more powerful than the President, have presided over a regime that violated human rights at will and committed inhuman war and post-war crimes. We have recently seen the photo of Balachandran Prabhakaran, young son of the dreaded Tamil rebel leader Vilupillai Prabhakaran, published by all the newspapers in India. The visuals, first broadcast by the British broadcaster Channel 4, showed a nervous Balachandran eating something under guard and then another visual with a corpse of the boy ridden with bullets.

Lankan soldiers must have taken the photos with mobiles as a war trophy. But it is a fact that a non-combative minor boy was caught and killed mercilessly. The same Channel 4 earlier broadcast a video showing images of Sri Lankan soldiers executing several naked prisoners, presumably Lankan Tamils. Those visuals were taken in the final weeks of the civil war that ended in 2009. In fact, two Tamil young men who claimed to be software engineers, came to me at the HMTV studios, some six months ago with videos containing ghastly visuals of naked bodies lined up and mutilated parts lying scattered on the ground. We have made a half an hour documentary with the help of the visuals and broadcast it.

Tamil politicians put the number of Sri Lankan Tamils killed at 10,000 and those who were found missing at 1000. A report by Human Rights Watch, an activist group, released on February 26th, published testimony from the victims, doctors and rights workers who described how Lankan police, military and intelligence agencies had illegally and arbitrarily detained, torched, maimed, raped and killed Tamils.

Foreign criticism, however, is dismissed by Rajapaksha brothers and other officials terming as an attempt to smear the reputation of Sri Lanka whose economy is dependent on tourism. The majority Sinhalese are happy with the Rajapaksha dispensation which won a decisive war against the LTTE and has been delivering good economic growth.

It is a challenge before the international community to bring pressure on the Sri Lankan government to keep its promise of holding election to the provincial council in its Northern Province and implement other assurances, such as devolution of political powers to the provinces, bringing reforms in its provisions of rule of law and involve the people in development activities. This is the responsibility of the UN. For India, it certainly is a delicate matter since it has some 7.5 crore of Tamils who naturally have emotional feelings for their linguistic cousins across the Palk Strait.

The shenanigans of the Dravidian politicians are too well known to merit repetition. When the Sri Lankan Army was annihilating the LTTE and was bombarding civilian dwellings no leader in Tamil Nadu worth his or her salt made it an issue. The army chiefs of 40 countries visited Colombo and congratulated the Rajapaksha brothers for their strategy that decimated the LTTE.

Karunanidhi was at that time a partner of UPA and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. No objection was raised about the Indian Army Chief being part of the delegation. Both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa are known for bullying tactics. Jayalalithaa did not grant interview to poor George Fernandes, the then defence minister, who waited at Poes Garden for hours before returning to New Delhi without meeting her. The angry lady pulled the plug and the 13- month-old National Democratic Alliance (DNA) government headed by Vajpayee fell like ninepins.

Now, Karunanidhi could not do to the UPA-II what Jayalalithaa did to the NDA-II. The old fox of Dravidian politics insists that the Indian Parliament should pass a resolution which contains the two dangerous words, Eelam and genocide. Introducing such a resolution would be tantamount to inviting trouble.

This session of parliament has passed a unanimous resolution slamming Pakistan for its parliament's resolution condemning the act of the Indian government in hanging Afzal Guru in the attack on Parliament case. There are many Indians who are not convinced with the way Afzal Guru was tried and executed. But Indian Parliament thought, in its wisdom, that the Pak Parliament has no business to pass such a resolution calling Afzal Guru a freedom fighter of Jammu & Kashmir. How can Indian parliamentarians now pass a resolution condemning Sri Lanka?

If the Indian Parliament passes such a resolution or manages to make the US drafted resolution strongly worded to embarrass Sri Lanka, our neighbors can pay us in the same coin. Pakistan or Sri Lanka or both can approach the UNHRC with a resolution demanding independent international investigation under the supervision of the UN into the alleged human rights abuses by Indian Army which has been executing special powers in J&K and the North East. That would bring matters back to square one as far as J&K is concerned. No sensible government in New Delhi would welcome that prospect.

If Sonia fails to say thus far and no further, Mulayam might ask her to rub her nose into the ground for his support since his strategy will be to somehow antagonize the UPA leadership and make elections inevitable. He may demand reservations for Muslims in jobs or he may oppose Mayawati who is sure to demand reservations in promotions for SCs.

Sonia would do well to ignore the olive branch held out by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and, instead, go for a fresh mandate. The sooner the elections are held the better for the Congress since the BJP is yet to get its act together. If she succumbs to blackmail by the DMK and introduces a resolution in parliament it will be seen as opportunistic politics unbecoming of a person who has been leading the Congress for 15 years.

All this, however, does not mean that India should remain a mute spectator when Sri Lankan government is continuing its violent policy towards Tamils.It has a responsibility to persuade Sri Lanka to get reconciled with the Tamils in the North. Sri Lanka cannot continue to oppress its own citizens. It has to ultimately create a level playing field for all without treating Tamils as second rate citizens in Sri Lanka. That has to be done patiently and gently in a diplomatic and cordial way; not through a strongly worded resolution as demanded by the DMK chief.

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