The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tug-of-war for spoils of death

Bangalore, Oct. 19: Dead men tell no tales.

Veerappan's death means a silent end of his links with political bigwigs. The patronage was obvious but could not be established. He had the tacit support of politicians in both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, but the dangerous liaisons were obscured by a game of one-upmanship between the ruling parties in the two southern states over the last decade and a half.

This game continued even after Veerappan and his men fell to the special task force on Monday night. Early on Tuesday, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa rushed a statement to the media on the spectacular success of the STF.

At that point, the Karnataka government could not confirm Veerappan's death with police chief S.. Borkar groping for details of the encounter near Papparapatti in Tamil Nadu's Dharmapuri district.

The operation is a 'precious jewel of my government', Jayalalithaa said in the statement.

The ADMK chief pointed out that she had created the STF in 1993 during her first tenure as chief minister, but criticised the next DMK government for rendering the STF ineffective.

'When I came back to power in 2001, I immediately took steps to reconstitute the STF. Every political party mocked me for my stand in this whole operation, particularly the DMK, which played a dubious role in the Rajkumar abduction crisis,' she added.

Her counterpart in Karnataka reacted several hours later. Dharam Singh vowed that his government would probe into political patronage and financial support that the brigand got over the last three decades.

'Though Veerappan and his associates have been killed in an encounter, we need to pursue some vital clues about the political and financial support that appears to have helped him survive so long,' Singh said.

Singh was mum on questions about the alleged ransom paid to secure the release of thespian Rajkumar in 2000. He was a senior member of the S.M. Krishna government that grappled with two abductions within a span of two years 'Rajkumar in July 2000 and former minister H. Nagappa in August 2002.

As part of such a game, the ADMK government in Tamil Nadu filed a case in a Coimbatore court in the light of allegations that Rs 20 crore was paid to Veerappan to free Rajkumar. The amount was mentioned in Rajkumar: Prized Catch of Veerappan, a book published by C. Dinakar soon after his retirement as Karnataka police chief. Dinakar was head of the force when Veerappan whisked the actor away from his farmhouse at Gajanur in Tamil Nadu.

Another instance when the game came to the fore in recent years was when the body of Nagappa was found more than a hundred days after he was kidnapped by Veerappan. Jayalalithaa pointed a finger at Krishna for putting the search operations on hold.

Though politicians vow they had no links with Veerappan, two former Karnataka police chiefs have confirmed such contacts. 'Local politicians of Kollegal (in Karnataka) seem to have some sort of connections with him. They might have taken Veerappan's help in some form or the other to garner votes in that region,' said S.C. Burman, who led the STF between 1993 and 1995.

Nagappa's family had charged then minister of state Raju Gowda with having links with Veerappan. Hannur, an Assembly segment, now represented by Nagappa's widow Parimala (Janata Dal-Secular), witnessed intense rivalry between the two former ministers for a decade.

On the other side of the border, Veerappan had banked on Kolathur Mani, of the Dravida Kazhagam, for support in the Mettur region and often routed audio cassettes to the two governments through him.

In 2002, he asked for Mani while holding Nagappa hostage, but the former could not venture out for negotiations as he was held under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.

'He had some hold on Veerappan and was willing to help us (soon after Nagappa's abduction), but he was not allowed to come out of prison,' said T. Srinivasulu, a former DGP who later worked as security adviser to the Karnataka government.

Srinivasulu said the Intelligence Bureau had gathered information that Veerappan's wife Muthulakshmi had met PMK leader S. Ramadoss and sought his help for the couple to slip away to Sri Lanka.

'They were from the same community (Padayachi Gounder), but I don't think Ramadoss helped them,' he said.

In 1990, a letter in Tamil had linked Veerappan with Raju Gowda (then a Congress legislator from Hannur), but then chief minister Veerendra Patil merely handed it to the police department to check its veracity. That was the first hint of such links.

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