CHENNAI: The political temperature in Tamil Nadu rose a few notches on Thursday over the invitation to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi and his Cabinet. Politicians from various parties voiced either strong opposition or guarded defence of the issue.
BJP State president Pon Radhakrishnan declared that the incoming government had invited the leaders of all SAARC countries with an eye on India’s standing in the international community.
“We are of the opinion that Rajapaksa should not be hosted at any event, but all SAARC countries were invited, and Sri Lanka is one,” he said.
“This invitation is different from anything the Congress did, because the Congress supported the killing of Tamils. The intention of a knife differs when held by a murderer or by a doctor,” said Radhakrishnan, adding, “Narendra Modi is like a doctor in this regard, and this may be the beginning of the redressal of the problem faced by Sri Lankan Tamils,” said Radhakrishnan. He added that Rajapaksa should not have been hosted at an event last year at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, whose State government is run by the BJP.
State Congress chief B S Gnanadesikan continued to take the line taken by the past UPA government on the matter, saying engagement with Sri Lanka was critical if India was to ensure the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils.
He expressed the hope that the Modi government would continue the steps taken by the UPA government for the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils.
NDA ally and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founder S Ramadoss, known to be hawkish on issues relating to Sri Lanka, steered clear of the issue. His statement on Thursday only congratulated Modi on being chosen by his party as the Prime Minister, and made no mention of the raging debate over Rajapakse’s visit.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) chief Thol Thirumavalavan, another leader hawkish on the Sri Lankan Tamil cause, pointed out that Rajapaksa was presently facing flak from the international community for war crimes and human rights abuses in the end stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war. “Narendra Modi’s efforts to improve relations with neighbouring countries, unlike the Manmohan Singh government’s, are welcome. But there is a doubt in our minds about this applying to Sri Lanka. It is my plea that the invitation to Rajapaksa be rescinded,” said Thirumaavalavan.
MDMK Chief Vaiko, who first raised the issue on Wednesday evening, followed up by writing to Modi, making an impassioned appeal against Rajapaksa’s presence at the ceremony, saying it would be a strong affront to Tamil sentiments.