The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cauvery cloud on bandit talks

New Delhi, Oct. 2: Fearing the wrath of Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, PMK chief S. Ramadoss has refused to meet Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna to discuss how to secure Nagappa’s release from forest bandit Veerappan’s clutches.

National Democratic Alliance convener George Fernandes tried to arrange a meeting between the two in his South Block office, but Ramadoss declined to talk to Krishna.

Ramadoss, like Veerappan, belongs to the backward Vanniyar community and played a role in securing the release of matinee idol Raj Kumar from Veerappan’s hands last year. He is reported to have asked LTTE sympathiser Nedumaran, who was sent as an emissary, to tell the brigand that “Ramadoss wants Raj Kumar released”.

The PMK leader had even raised the issue of granting amnesty to the brigand last year. But he developed cold feet yesterday and said he did not know Veerappan, fearing that Jayalalithaa might not appreciate his helping Karnataka when both states were locked in a dispute over Cauvery waters.

The PMK chief called on deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and, apart from the Veerappan issue, discussed the political situation in Tamil Nadu.

Krishna met Fernandes on Monday. He has been knocking on all doors to get Nagappa freed but with little success. Fernandes had assured him he would urge Ramadoss to use his clout with the brigand and invited both of them to his office.

Ramadoss did not know that Krishna was waiting to meet him over the Nagappa issue. But when he realised it, Ramadoss decided to wait it out in the defence minister’s anteroom while Fernandes talked to Krishna.

Ramdoss said he did not want to meet Krishna because of his uncompromising stand on the Cauvery waters issue. Fernandes was left with no choice but to meet them separately.

Ramadoss later told reporters he had informed Fernandes that he did not know Veerappan. However, he was willing to send a message to the brigand, asking him to release Nagappa on humanitarian grounds.

Ramadoss said two persons in Tamil Nadu were willing to mediate with Veerappan but the state government’s support was essential for such a mission.

Simultaneously, the PMK chief launched a blistering attack on Jayalalithaa, blaming her for following the “wrong policy” on the Cauvery issue.

The Supreme Court could have given a favourable verdict yesterday if Jayalalithaa had allowed the Cauvery Monitoring Committee to visit the delta areas, he said.

Asked why he had refused to meet Krishna, the PMK leader said that the Karnataka chief minister was refusing to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu despite an apex court directive and the Cauvery River Authority’s decision.

Political circles in Karnataka fear that Veerappan might trade Nagappa’s freedom for Cauvery water, making Krishna’s job difficult. Veerappan has been using high profile abductions to bolster his image in Tamil Nadu with an eye on politics.

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