Saturday, May 09, 2009

A confusing election and the Sri Lankan question

As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, the current parliamentary election is nothing short of confusing to the voters. The one overpowering issue is Sri Lankan Tamil crisis, something that does not directly affect the lives of the people of Tamil Nadu. However, the emotional ties between the Tamils of Tamil Nadu and that of Sri Lanka, and the suffering the Tamils of Sri Lanka have undergone in the last 3 decades have moved almost all the people of Tamil Nadu, except a minority.

This has forced almost all the political parties to take a stance on this issue. That is what confuses the people. To start with, some parties distinguish between the suffering Tamil masses and the armed revolutionary group LTTE. Some others do not distinguish the two and believe that the hope of Tamils lie entirely with the wellbeing of LTTE and its leader Prabakaran.

The principal parties AIADMK, DMK have queered the pitch a lot in the run up to the election. AIADMK's Jayalalitha, until recently, was not bothered about the Sri Lankan problem at all. She was vehemently anti-LTTE and vowed to drive them out of whatever little presence they had in Tamil Nadu. Though Karunanidhi's DMK was not seen as an overt friend of LTTE, the party was also not seen as an out and out enemy of LTTE like Jayalalitha was.

However, DMK is a partner of Congress in the centre and depends on that party for survival in the state legislature. Congress party hates LTTE and Prabakaran for their part in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. As far as the Congress headed Central Government is concerned, LTTE is a proscribed organization in India and Prabakaran is a proclaimed offender in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case.

Parties such as MDMK, PMK and VC in Tamil Nadu accuse Congress government of openly supplying arms, logistical support and diplomatic support to the Sri Lankan government and military in their war efforts to crush and demolish LTTE. In the last 6 months the Sri Lankan army has successfully destroyed the hold of LTTE and now LTTE is restricted to a mere 3-4 square kilometres, with Prabakaran on the run.

However, the unfortunate Tamil people have suffered endlessly in tha hands of the Sri Lankan military. 'Collateral damage' or wanton destruction of lives, several thousand Tamils have been killed and even more maimed for life.

At the other end, the Tamils took up the liberation struggle because they were subjugated, their rights curtailed and a federal structure was denied to the people. Several decades of peaceful struggle yielded nothing. Sinhalese majority is authoritarian, narrow minded and contemptuous of the minority. While it is understandable that the Sinhalese despise LTTE, it is difficult to see Sinhalese intellectuals talking openly about a sensible federal political solution. One or two Sinhalese journalists who were critical of the Government's approach have been bumped off by unidentified gunmen.

A victorious Sinhalese army and government will exact their revenge. Tamils will be vanquished, their rights further curtailed and the poor people forced into deadly concentration camps. The world powers will cry for a while and move on.

In the last few decades, nowhere in the world, minority struggles have succeeded by way of peaceful negotiations.

In this background, Indian parliamentary elections appeared to take a specific direction in Tamil Nadu. It looked as if a lot of people will vote out the DMK-Congress combine. The pro-Tamil, PMK and MDMK now partner AIADMK. Jayalalitha herself changed her stance and started talking about getting a separate Eelam in Sri Lanka for the Tamils (a promise she certainly cannot fulfill). She undertook a fast.

Perturbed by this, Karunanidhi also undertook a sudden fast, and several other Government sponsored agitations. The drama continued and it was announced that because of Karunanidhi's fast, the Indian government extracted a 'ceasefire' in Sri Lanka. The reality was that Sri Lankan army merely announced cessation of heavy arm fire on civilians. However, world media reported heavy shelling even after the drama of a fast. But with the help of pliant Tamil Nadu media - two TV channels are controlled by Karunanidhi's family - we were all informed that there is no more fighting in Sri Lanka and people are safe, thanks to Karunanidhi's fast!

Other issues have simply vanished in this confusion. To be honest, other issues have to do with governance at the state level and they should not be issues to be discussed in this election. The sorry state of electricity in the state should be reflected in the next assembly election. Corruption is taken for granted, but by both DMK and AIADMK. So one cannot distinguish the parties on that basis (Unlike a Lalu Yadav - Nithish Kumar fight in Bihar).


For the first time in the last few elections, I am personally confused about who to vote in my constituency. I will probably remain undecided till the 13th morning, as I walk down 100 metres from my home where my polling booth is located. I will probably be undecided until I reach the electronic voting machine. My vote is certainly not for DMK's Dayanidhi Maran. It may not be to AIADMK's Jinnah. Perhaps some poor independent candidate may get a vote from me this time.