Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Political agitations to stop the war in Sri Lanka

All attempts in Tamil Nadu to stop the war in Sri Lanka have failed so far. The latest - an indefinite fast by Thol.Thirumavalavan was stopped in 4 days. Now, there is a proposal of 10 days of bandh. This will be an ill-conceived move again.

Sadly, this is because the political parties are not united in their support for the cause and bicker amongst themselves. Smaller parties go on their own and stage violent agitations, making it difficult to get complete public sympathy for this cause.

Every time there is an all-party meeting on this topic, the key opposition parties AIADMK and MDMK stay away. Now, the communist parties have also moved to this camp.

PMK and VCK put tremendous pressure on DMK to act. However their public posturing makes it difficult for DMK to act. It is like asking a person, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" You cannot answer in the affirmative too.

Just to make the matters worse, VCK and other fringe groups make it a point to attack Rajiv Gandhi statues and on one occasion have ransacked the Congress party headquarters in Chennai.

It is imperative for the friends of the Sri Lankan Tamils to know that without the support of Congress party, they cannot stop the Sri Lankan army moving into the Tamil areas. The Indian general election is three months away and the chances are that Congress will still come back to power.

This is where Thirumavalavan goes wrong again and again. At least Ramadoss has understood this point and is asking for reconciliation with Congress.

It appears to me that, the person best suited to present Tamil Nadu's case to the centre on stopping the war in Sri Lanka is actually Ramadoss and not Karunanidhi. However, Ramadoss doesn't have the power and Karunanidhi is unwilling to make a move.

Time is running out for lakhs of people in Mullaitivu and surroundings, suffering heavy shelling by the Sri Lankan army. The humanitarian crisis is not known to the rest of the world because there is no coverage whatsoever.

The political roadmap for bringing peace to Sri Lanka would work as follows:

1. An attempt to stop attacking Congress party and Rajiv Gandhi. A complete reconciliation with Congress and full support of the party in stopping the war in Sri Lanka. Here the issue of the LTTE must be raised and kept for later discussions. Stopping the war and bringing the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to the negotiating table is more of a priority.

2. Removal of policy making people in the external affairs ministry who have no understanding of the Sri Lankan issue, and replacement of the same with officers who are sensitive to the sufferings of people in the neighbouring country.

3. Immediate effecting of ceasefire. Unless the Indian Government leans on the Sri Lankan Government, this will not happen.

4. Once normalcy returns, then one can move to the next step of discussing various peace solutions. A solution may not be possible even in the next decade, but stopping the war and ensuring that it does not flare up again, will save several lives.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thirumavalavan's hunger strike

The chief of Viduthalai Chiruththaigal Katchi (VCK), Thol.Thirumavalavan is on a hunger strike (entering third day today) to force India to demand a stop to the war in Sri Lanka.

It is unclear if India will make a move in this regard. A directive to force feed Thirumavalavan from centre will be issued and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu will be forced to ensure this.

DMK has been unable to force the Congress lead UPA to move swiftly to stop the war in Sri Lanka. A strong faction in the Indian Government wants the war to continue, to decimate or at least cripple the LTTE. However, the impact on the people of Northern Sri Lanka (Vanni) has been disastrous.

With weapons of considerably lower calibre, Sri Lankan army has killed, maimed and rendered Tamil people homeless, than what Israel has done in Gaza in the last month. Both Israel and Sri Lanka claim that the damage to civilians is collateral.

With virtually no TV coverage of the affected Vanni region, there is no outrage in India. The political parties in Tamil Nadu have failed to highlight the problems in Sri Lanka to political parties in other Indian states.

Thol.Thirumavalavan organized a public meeting last month in Chennai on "Recognizing Tamil Eelam as a separate country". Doubtless, it is an extreme solution. The administration ensured that the event coverage was spiked; no television channel even talked about this. Initially, Thirumavalavan was not allowed by the Tamil Nadu government to organize this event. He had to move the Chennai High Court to get the clearence.

The Sri Lankan Tamil problem has not yet become a poll issue in Tamil Nadu. Unless that happens and the political parties fear that they will lose votes if they do not bring immediate relief to the Sri Lankan Tamils, the Indian government will not move forward. Until then, the Sri Lankan army operation will continue.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thirumangalam bye-election

DMK has won the bye-election 2009 in Thirumangalam. In 2006, AIADMK/MDMK coalition had won this seat on a narrow margin of less than 5,000 votes. This time, DMK has won with a massive margin of 39,266 votes.

In 2006, MDMK polled 45,067 votes, whereas in 2009, AIADMK got, only 40,156 votes.

There are two main sources of additional votes for DMK. The total number of (valid) votes polled has increased by around 18,000. The 'others', including DMDK have lost around 15,000 votes compared to the 2006 election. AIADMK coalition has lost around 5000 votes.

All these votes have gone to DMK, totally around 38,000+ - which is the victory margin of DMK.

I can only attribute DMK's money power and threats that have forced the voters to turn up en masse and vote for DMK.

One can understand people being bribed to vote, and they may genuinely feel that they should vote for DMK as they have received Rs. 5,000 + other freebies. To a lot of people, that is a lot of money.

How can we rationalise the 'threat' element? Voting is anonymous. Still, several uneducated voters of Thirumangalam might have felt that DMK somehow has the power to identify who has voted for who. This, coupled with the known rowdy actions of M.K.Azhagiri, son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi would have frightened several voters.

Over the last three years, DMK has lot the support of three important allies. The two communist parties have moved out of the coalition and have joined with Jayalalitha's AIADMK. PMK has stayed away from both the parties. VCK has moved from AIADMK camp to DMK camp. However, in Thirumangalam, VCK and PMK would have contributed very little. The two communist parties, would have accounted for around 5,000 votes, if at all.

That would mean, the swing achieved by DMK is even more, to compensate the loss of around 5,000 votes going to the opposite camp.

Yet, this election cannot be seen as a trend in any sense, for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

DMK cannot spend this sort of money in every constituency. Its 'top management' cannot focus on all the constituencies with campaigning.

However, three months is a long time in Tamil Nadu and the kind of coalition that is put together will determine the outcome. Unlike the last election, my guess is that, this time, the parliamentary seats will be shared roughly 50%-50% between DMK and AIADMK groups.

PMK is most likely to join the AIADMK group. BJP may not get anything as it is unlikely to be part of either AIADMK or DMK groups. DMDK may also draw a blank. It is possible that BJP and DMDK may come together to fight the elections, in which case, they will end of as number three everywhere.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Books I bought at the Chennai Book Fair

Dilbert and the way of the weasel, Scott Adams
The wonder that was India, A L Basham

Monday, January 12, 2009

The communist parties and the LTTE

To follow up on yesterday's posting, two quotes found in Dinamani today will make my assertion clear.

Talking to newspersons in Coimbatore, CPM's Brinda Karat said: "There should be a permanent political solution to the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka. The sympathy shown to the Sri Lankan Tamils should not encourage entities that support the LTTE. The Sri Lankan Tamils and the LTTE are different from each other." (Dinamani, 12/1/2009)

Speaking at Paramakkudi, CPI's D.Pandian said: "No one can fight for a cause for a period of 30 years without the support of the people. Therefore, one cannot dismiss the LTTE away as mere terrorists." (Dinamani, 12/1/2009)

I mentioned yesterday that the two communist parties have not made their views on the LTTE clear, while showing pro- and anti- stance. They have today made their stance fairly clear.

CPI favours talking to the LTTE and recognizing them. CPI(M) does not and considers the LTTE, untouchable.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

LTTE and the Tamil Nadu political parties

We can group Tamil Nadu (based) political parties as follows:

1. AIADMK, Congress - Vehemently oppose the LTTE. If possible, they avoid mentioning the sufferings of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

2. PMK (Ramadoss), VCK (Thol.Thirumavalavan), MDMK (Vai.Ko) - Actively support the LTTE. If threatened with arrests, pipe down a little bit, only to resurface again with open expression of support.

3. DMK - thoroughly confused as to what to do. By nature, pro-Ealam and hence pro-LTTE, but depends on Congress for support in the state legislature. Also, a key player in the central coalition ministry and hence cannot be seen to be actively "anti-national".

4. BJP - though a fringe player in Tamil Nadu, has suddenly come up with a pro-LTTE stand, asking for the removal of ban on the LTTE in India.

5. CPI - Tamil Nadu unit of the party is pro-Ealam, though will not openly talk about the LTTE.

6. CPI (M) - Anti-LTTE though they will not openly make any statements.

7. DMDK - Vijayakanth'a party. No explicit statements so far.

8. Several Periyarist, Tamil Nationalist outfits which are outright pro-LTTE.


MDMK, PMK, VCK see the LTTE as the only group capable of safeguarding the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Periyarist, Tamil nationalist groups see the LTTE and Prabhakaran as somewhat larger - on par with a Sangam era Tamil hero or victorious Tamil kings who vanquished other kingdoms. They are therefore willing to accept the decimation of other Tamil armed groups/peaceful groups in Sri Lanka by the LTTE.

Congress sees the LTTE as the group that killed their leader Rajiv Gandhi. This 'personal' enmity is the reason why there will never be a rapprochement between Congress and the LTTE. Further complication arises when the fringe supporters of the LTTE consider Congress as their enemy and attack the party verbally and also physically. This strengthens Congress' resolve to increase their opposition to the LTTE even further.

AIADMK will remain anti-LTTE as long as Jayalalitha is at the helm of this party. She also seems to harbour personal enmity, the reasons for this are unclear, against the LTTE.

For all the others, support or opposition to LTTE is not steadfast. They can always change their tune according to the situation. There is nothing ideological in their stand vis-a-vis the LTTE.


Is it acceptable for a democratic country or constitutional elements within a democratic country to encourage or support armed fight in another country?

Those who support the LTTE in Tamil Nadu contend that the LTTE has taken to the arms only because of Sinhala chauvinism - constant attacks and periodic riots against the Tamil minorities in Sri Lanka, colonisation of Tamil lands by Sinhala farmers, unreasonable restrictions on Tamils from getting into higher education and jobs, imposition of Sinhalese language over the Tamils, imposition of Buddhism everywhere, lack of sufficient representation for Tamils in the Police and the military, to name a few.

The LTTE's supporters say that all peaceful means of convincing the Sinhalese majority on devolution of power to the minority Tamils did not work. Therefore, frustrated Tamils took to arms, which resulted in a clutch of armed groups such as EROS, TELO, LTTE, EPRLF, ENDLF and so on. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the LTTE emerged stronger by decimating or forcefully merging other groups.


The Sri Lankan Tamil problem has several aspects that need to be addressed. There should be more vigorous debate in Tamil Nadu and across India. There is no solution to the Palestine conflict without having a dialogue with Hamas. Even the UN recognizes this. However, in Tamil Nadu and India, talking about the LTTE is a taboo.

Tamil Nadu based political parties should not shy away from talking about the LTTE.

I will discuss more on this in the subsequent posts.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Satyam Computers fiasco

What a sad story. They have not given dividends at all in three of the last four years. The only year they paid, it was nominal. This is a company supposed to be in the top 5, in terms of revenue amongst the IT service providers in India. It showed a revenue of more than 8500 crores in the last financial year.

I feel sorry for the employees - around 53,000 of them. This company now cannot be resurrected. No one will acquire the company. There are likely to be class action suits in US, and serious proceedings in India too. The assets of the company may also not be parcelled into a new company and sold off, as the contracts are easily movable to TCS, Infosys, Wipro or HCL. Besides these contracts, they do not have any assets worth talking about.

The employees will find the going tough today as there are so few jobs going around in IT these days.

Quite devastating for corporate India and the auditing fraternity in India.

Let us hope there are no more skeletons about to come out.

Satyam accounting fraud: NY Times

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Providing evidence acceptable to Pakistan

There is no way, India can provide evidence acceptable to Pakistan. Putting it another way, whatever evidence India comes up with, Pakistan will find them not up to the mark.

That is because, Pakistan cannot accept openly that its territory was used by terrorists to stage the attack on India. If Pakistan accepts this fact, then India will push Pakistan harder to act against the terrorists. Pakistan cannot do that. India may ask for their extradition. Pakistan cannot do that. So, Pakistan will continue to stonewall India.

However, India should not get frustrated by this and continue to apply pressure on Pakistan and the International community - by which I mean US, EU and China. Others do not matter much. Pakistan needs funding from these three to survive. India should protest heavily if it appears that they are likely to offer loans to Pakistan, before Pakistan resolves the Mumbai problem with India.

Alternately, India should offer Pakistan development loans (in Indian Rupees, not in US dollars), if Pakistan acts mercilessly against the terrorists (by extraditing them to India), and also cracks down on the Jihadi elements in ISI.

M.K.Stalin caught distributing money to voters

Bye-elections shouldn't be taken very seriously. But, not so in Tamil Nadu. The results of Thirumangalam constituency will not make a change in the governing set up in Tamil Nadu. A vacancy arose when MDMK candidate from Thirumangalam died of heart attack. By the rules of decency, MDMK should have been asked to put up a candidate for that seat. MDMK is part of the coalition headed by Jeyalalitha's AIADMK. Big Sister Jeyalalitha, instead, decided that AIADMK will contest the seat to ensure that DMK is defeated.

In the meantime, Madurai's de facto Governor, M.K.Azhagiri vowed that he will make DMK win the seat.

The first contest was who will be the candidate for DMK. M.K.Azhagiri and M.K.Stalin, the two sons of DMK Chief Minister Karunanidhi staged a shadow fight and Stalin won. Azhagiri cried wolf and refused to campaign citing eye surgery. He was finally persuaded to campaign, but one could see his unease in TV. Stalin and Azhagiri appeared together but Azhagiri rarely spoke.

But then, Azhagiri rarely speaks. His goondas do the needful. They too believe in action than words.

Not that people in this constituency think this is some kind of referendum on DMK rule. Both AIADMK and DMK are fighting to demonstrate to other political parties, which way the upcoming Parliamentary election results will go.

So, both parties have let loose the purse strings. Both parties have resorted to large scale bribery of the voters. In an earlier bye-election too, there were talks of each voter being given Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000. Now, because of inflation, the going rate seems to be around Rs. 5,000.

Normally, such talks are rarely backed up with hard evidence. Yesterday, however, AIADMK controlled Jaya TV showed a video snippet of M.K.Stalin distributing cash. Note that M.K.Stalin is the newly elected Treasurer of DMK and is the Minister for Municipal Administration and Rural Development in the Tamil Nadu Government.

The Election Commission is filing a case. Stalin claims he gave the money as a birthday present to a child and that he can produce 'evidence' if asked.

It is unbelievable that so much money is being spent by DMK and AIADMK. The only way the voters can teach these rascals a lesson is by electing DMDK candidate from this constituency. DMKDK is the party founded by actor Vijaykanth. Though there is probably nothing greatly redeeming about the DMDK candidate, it is essential that obscene money power be punished by the voters.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Fall of Kilinochi

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) have lost their key city, their de facto capital Kilinochi, to the Sri Lankan army. Sri Lankan army have gained ascendancy over the last several months, starting with Mavilaru in the East, culminating in "liberating" Eastern Sri Lanka from the control of LTTE. Now, their progress is the North has pushed LTTE cadres to surrender positions held by them for close to a decade.

LTTE are far from out. They will step up suicide attacks in Colombo, and could possibly expand this all the way to Matara in the South.

The humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka is worse than in Gaza. Since we get Gaza beamed into our houses non-stop, we sympathise more with the Palestinians.

The Tamil Nadu based supporters of LTTE have been ineffective in getting proper coverage of the Sri Lankan issue in the Indian media, and also in sensitising non-Tamil Indians on the Sri Lankan problem and the role expected to be played by the Indian Government in bringing this crisis to a stop.

I intend to touch upon some of the aspects of the Sri Lankan crisis and the views of various Indian political parties in this regard, in a series of posts.

Pranab Mukherjee and the Congress headed UPA Government cannot shy away from their responsibilities. They cannot delay meeting the Sri Lankan Government any further. The war in Sri Lanka must be stopped immediately and only India can play this role effectively.