The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Karunanidhi puts out peace hand to Vaiko

Chennai, Nov. 5: DMK chief M. Karunanidhi today set the ball rolling for a fresh attempt at political reconciliation when he met jailed MDMK general secretary Vaiko at Vellore Central Prison.

The 78-year-old former chief minister drove down to Vellore this morning for the 45-minute meeting with Vaiko, who has been jailed by the Tamil Nadu government under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for openly supporting the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The tête-à-tête, with political, emotive and personal overtones, comes at a crucial time when the DMK patriarch has been thinking aloud of the old guard withdrawing from the party leadership. Karunanidhi even drew on the analogy of an “elder brother calling on his younger brother that went beyond political ties”.

The last meeting between the two was before the 1999 Lok Sabha elections. Vaiko had then met Karunanidhi in state capital Chennai when the DMK joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the wake of ADMK chief Jayalalithaa’s withdrawal of support to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

Karunanidhi’s visit was a reciprocal gesture — a few days ago, Vaiko had asked one of his party leaders to visit ailing DMK leader and Union minister Murasoli Maran in hospital. Although Karunanidhi refused to attach any political significance to their tête-à-tête, the meeting came amid heightened expectations that the MDMK might return to its mother party, especially at a time when its cadre are increasingly feeling the impact of Vaiko’s prolonged incarceration. The MP is in jail for over 100 days now.

Karunanidhi refused to comment on whether any merger proposal or greater co-ordination between the two parties was in the offing.

He told reporters he had mainly gone to enquire about Vaiko’s health and that of his family. In return, the MDMK leader enquired about “my health and that of Mr Maran’s health”, the DMK chief said. He also presented a couple of his books, including his commentary on the ancient Tamil classic Thirukkural.

Karunanidhi, however, minced no words when asked about the anti-terror Act. He said the Tamil Nadu government has been misusing it and called for a fresh look at some of the provisions of the Act. Queried on the Centre’s response to Vaiko’s arrest, he said: “It cannot be said to be satisfactory as the Central government had not taken any action in this matter.”

If the Karunanidhi-Vaiko talks had analysts speculating on the outcome, Jayalalithaa remained focused on the Cauvery issue. In a counter to Karnataka’s letter asking the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of the Cauvery River Authority, Jayalalithaa wrote to Vajpayee saying that without a “minimum fixed agenda”, Tamil Nadu will not be able to participate effectively in the meeting.

In past meetings, Karnataka made some “oral submissions” while Tamil Nadu said what it had to in writing. But invariably, the written submissions were not fully considered and “some via-media order is later passed vis-à-vis the state of Karnataka’s failure to comply with the order”, Jayalalithaa said. Such things ought not to be repeated in the light of the Supreme Court’s latest directive, she added.

Jayalalithaa suggested a “Table of Agenda” for the next meeting and said Tamil Nadu would also insist on certain procedural regulations, as the river authority has not framed any rules for such meetings. Any decision taken at these meetings would affect millions of people in either state, the chief minister pointed out.

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