Cablegate: Dmk Calls Off Threat to Pull Support From Upa Over Sri

R 030511Z NOV 08


E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: Chief Minister Karunanidhi backed down from his
threat to have Tamil Nadu's Members of Parliament resign if India
did not force a ceasefire in Sri Lanka before October 28. The
resignation drama has helped distract attention from the DMK
party's woes in advance of next years Parliamentary elections. The
political crisis has introduced some tension into the DMK/Congress
relationship, which remains strong because of the parties' mutual
interest in supporting one another. End summary.

Karunanidhi backs down

2. (SBU) On October 14, Tamil Nadu Members of Parliament agreed at
an "all-party meeting" chaired by DMK Chief Minister Karunanidhi to
resign en masse if the Government of India failed to force a
ceasefire in Sri Lanka by October 28 (ref B). But on October 26,
two days before the deadline, Karunanidhi backed down after a visit
from External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Mukherjee's visit,
coupled with several other actions by the central government --
including summoning the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, engaging with
Sri Lanka's Special Envoy, and agreeing to send humanitarian
assistance to Sri Lanka's Tamils -- appear to have mollified
Karunanidhi. According to media reports, Karunanidhi said "he
(Mukherjee) suggested we defer the decision (to resign) now; I gave
him that assurance." Karunanidhi also acknowledged that "this issue
has been going on for 40 years; we cannot expect it to be resolved
in four days." At an event the next day inaugurating a road named
after Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated by the Tamil
Tigers in Chennai in 1991, Karunanidhi said that the DMK had no
difference of opinion with the Union Government on the Sri Lanka

An idle threat by Karunanidhi?

3. (SBU) Observers from across the spectrum scoffed at the notion
that Karunanidhi ever intended to actually allow the MPs to resign.
Peter Alphonse, a Tamil Nadu Congress Party leader, told post that
Karunanidhi would never have pulled the MPs from the UPA. According
to Alphonse, Karunanidhi wanted to show-up his political opponents
who expected the all-party meeting to be a routine one issuing a
typical, toothless hortatory resolution. But, according to
Alphonse, Karunanidhi never would have carried out the threat
because the DMK has no option but to stick with the UPA and the

4. (SBU) Dayanidhi Maran, a DMK Member of Parliament who was
stripped of his position as Union Minister for Information
Technology and Telecommunications by his grand-uncle Karunanidhi in
2007, agreed that the Chief Minister's resignation threat was an
idle one. Maran called it a "drama" staged by Karunanidhi, noting
that he too tendered his resignation despite his estrangement from
the Chief Minister. Maran said that Karunanidhi's main objective
was to distract attention from the state's recent power outages,
which have increased anger against the incumbent government to an
all-time high.

A fissure in strong DMK/Congress relationship?

5. (SBU) The resignation threat has put stress on an otherwise
strong relationship between the DMK and Congress. At the local
level, Alphonse said the Tamil Nadu Congress was irritated that
Karunanidhi appeared to be slipping back into his past tendency to
be "soft" on the terrorist Tamil Tigers and the small Tamil Nadu
political parties that support them. "We were all afraid that
Karunanidhi fell into the trap of the small pro-LTTE parties. They
were pushing him to take an aggressive stand on this issue by
playing on his projected image of the father of world Tamils." That
said, Alphonse said the DMK and Karunanidhi were no longer soft on
the Tamil Tigers after having been "burned" politically by popular
revulsion against the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.

6. (SBU) Maran claimed Karunanidhi's attempt at "blackmail" has
alienated the Congress high command, especially Sonia Gandhi.
According to Maran, who despite having an axe to grind with
Karunanidhi remains publicly loyal to the Chief Minister, Congress
"will carry this grudge and retaliate at the right time." As
evidence of the hurt feelings, Maran alleged that Sonia Gandhi
recently refused to meet with Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi, who
is a DMK Member of Parliament. Maran also said that a faction of
the Congress Party leadership, including Rahul Gandhi, wishes to see
Tamil Tiger chief Prabhakran dead in retaliation for killing Rajiv
Gandhi, which drives a wedge between Congress and the DMK over Sri

7. (SBU) Comment: Karunanidhi's DMK and Congress are bound together
by mutual self-interest. Karunanidhi needs Congress to remain Chief
Minister of Tamil Nadu and Congress relies on the DMK to keep the
UPA in power in New Delhi. As a result, it is no surprise that the
political drama Karunanidhi generated quietly concluded with no
resignations after the Indian government took sufficient steps to
give him enough political cover to save face. Despite the posturing
from state-level politicians and the influential Tamil film
industry, the episode stands out mostly for what we did not see.
Although Karunanidhi has been criticized by political opponents for
not taking an even stronger stance with the central government over
Sri Lanka, those opponents do not seem to be getting much traction.
Support for the Sri Lankan Tamils has not become a burning issue
with the public in Tamil Nadu. The DMK's much-hyped "human chain"
in solidarity with the island's Tamils saw anemic participation, and
the arrest of politicians supportive of the Tamil Tigers passed
without any outpouring of support for the cause. The legacy of
revulsion over Rajiv Gandhi's assassination continues to loom large
over Tamil Nadu.


© Scoop Media

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