The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Prisoner Vaiko applauds Atal

Chennai, Nov. 17: Dressed in a white dhoti and kurta, with a red-laced black towel on his shoulders, MDMK leader Vaiko looked physically run down. But there was a sparkle in the eyes of the NDA member of Parliament who is about to complete 500 days in Vellore prison.

Vaiko, arrested under the anti-terrorism law by the Tamil Nadu government in July 2002 for supporting the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at a public meeting near Madurai, was brought to the special court of L. Rajendran in Ponamalle today.

The MDMK leader’s supporters continue to throng the court premises, but Vaiko’s access to the media has been curtailed since he joined a demonstration near the court last week against the Assembly sentencing five senior journalists of The Hindu and one of DMK mouthpiece Murasoli.

“Despite my detention” under the anti-terrorism legislation, “my admiration for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has grown by leaps and bounds”, Vaiko told The Telegraph today.

After Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1960s, “Vajpayee is the only Indian leader today who has risen in stature internationally as a statesman”, asserted the MDMK leader.

“His visit to China was path-breaking” and even in the US, Europe and West Asian countries “Vajpayee is looked up to today”, he said, quoting the Pakistan foreign minister who recently placed hopes on Vajpayee for the solution of the Kashmir problem.

The MDMK leader said he did not anticipate snap polls to the Lok Sabha and was confident that Vajpayee will complete his five-year term.

When asked if the DMK — the major NDA partner in Tamil Nadu — was moving away from the BJP towards the Congress and straining the MDMK’s relationship with the BJP, Vaiko said: “We (MDMK) have a cordial and harmonious relationship with the DMK. But that does not mean our relations with the BJP are strained.”

The MDMK leader felt the picture on realignment of political forces in Tamil Nadu would become clear as Lok Sabha polls approach.

“Why should you pre-judge the issue' We will stand by our party general council’s resolution (to work in close co-ordination with the DMK),” retorted the MDMK leader, when asked what his party would do if the DMK decided to go with the Congress.

Vaiko pointed out that total opposition to the anti-terror legislation had brought the MDMK and the DMK closer and indicated that the synergy in the state would be carried to its logical end. The anti-terror legislation “should be thrown out lock, stock and barrel”, he said.

Vaiko admitted that the “compulsions of coalition politics” had prompted MDMK to vote for the anti-terror bill in Parliament.

But “I had vehemently opposed” the legislation at the NDA meeting earlier saying this “draconian law will be applied like a guillotine by repressive governments like the Jayalalithaa regime”, he clarified. The eventual support for the law was a “political mistake” on his part, Vaiko said.

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