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DMK looks to Vajpayee

Chennai, Oct. 1: The DMK has said it expects the Prime Minister’s Office not to allow Union minister of state for non-conventional energy M. Kannappan to be arrested under the anti-terror law.

Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa recently wrote to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, telling him she would have to arrest the MDMK minister under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for having spoken in favour of the banned LTTE.

After attorney-general Soli Sorabjee said a mere speech by a minister to explain his party’s stand could not amount to supporting a banned terrorist organisation, the Prime Minister asked law minister Arun Jaitley to look into the matter.

Speaking after a meeting of DMK district secretaries, party chief M. Karunanidhi said: “My expectations in this regard are the same as yours, but I cannot say until we know how the Prime Minister actually tackles the Kannappan issue.” The DMK and MDMK are part of the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre.

Both parties feel that the Union law ministry will soon write to Jayalalithaa saying Kannappan’s September 16 speech at a book function should not invite the provisions of the anti-terror law.

The minister has remained put in Delhi after meeting Vajpayee along with a MDMK team led by party presidium chairman L. Ganesan. The team told him that Kannappan had only extended “moral support” to the LTTE.

Karunanidhi said the Jayalalithaa regime had a track record of arresting Union ministers, referring to the rounding up of DMK central ministers Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu during the June 2001 midnight operation to arrest the party chief.

The law ministry’s ruling will be keenly watched, not because Kannappan is a political heavyweight, but because the matter has embarrassed the Vajpayee regime.

In her September 22 letter, the chief minister raised a number of constitutional issues, saying the Union minister had violated the oath of office.

She added that it would only be proper for her government to “take suitable action contemplated under Pota (Prevention of Terrorism Act)” for Kannappan’s open support to the LTTE.

Jayalalithaa added: “No law prevents even a central minister from being arrested by the state government in (the) public interest if he indulges in activities against the law of the land.”

Karunanidhi responded by saying the DMK would not be silenced by ally BJP’s argument that the anti-terror law was necessary. “We are not prepared to accept their explanation; that is why to press for the act’s repeal, we have finalised a plan today for the party’s December 1 statewide picketing programme before both state and central government offices at the taluk level itself.”

The DMK chief denied he was being “soft” towards the BJP. “How can we be soft to the BJP as long as they do not withdraw Pota,” he said. “When we could not accept (MDMK chief) Vaiko’s (July 2002) arrest under Pota in the first place, how can we accept Kannappan’s (possible) arrest now'” Karunanidhi said.

The party chief slammed a police order prohibiting Vettrikondan from addressing public meetings in the entire district after his allegedly defamatory remarks against Jayalalithaa at the DMK’s recent Villupuram conference led to his arrest.

Karunanidhi warned that his party would have to take some action if police “denied (them) the basic freedom of speech and acted in a partisan manner”.

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