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Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre goofs up on Vaiko petition

Chennai/New Delhi, March 30: The NDA lurched to the edge of a split today before DMK chief M. Karunanidhi stepped in and defused the standoff triggered by a “mistake” in the Centre’s counter-affidavit to MDMK chief Vaiko’s petition against the anti-terror law.

The BJP-led Centre filed the affidavit in the Supreme Court yesterday, saying the “words flowing from the petitioner (Vaiko) constitute an act of terrorism” under the anti-terror law. The reference was to Vaiko’s pro-LTTE speech made near Madurai in July, leading to his arrest under the anti-terror law.

The affidavit ran contrary to the Centre’s stated stand that chief minister Jayalalithaa had launched a witchhunt against Vaiko to settle political scores by using the anti-terror law.

According to sources here, the DMK’s tough-talking at today’s brainstorming session of NDA allies in Delhi — which included a “real threat to pull out of the NDA” — made the Centre realise its “mistake”.

Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee held his juniors responsible for the “mistake” and said it would be rectified tomorrow.

“The government’s view always has been and is that Pota is constitutional. That has been stated throughout in the affidavit. Some one or two sentences which have crept in is obviously due to misapprehensions at the junior level and that will be corrected immediately tomorrow,” he said.

The Centre’s affidavit to Vaiko’s petition in the apex court challenging Section 21 of the anti-terror law came a day after a statewide fast here by most Opposition parties to demand the Dravidian leader’s release.

The MDMK reacted by threatening to pull out its ministers from the Centre and quit the NDA. “Our leader of the House, L. Ganesan, is slated to meet Vaiko at Vellore prison (tomorrow) to discuss and decide about the next move,” MDMK’s Union minister of state for finance Gengi Ramachandran said in Delhi.

The threat prompted a visibly shaken Karunanidhi to tell his man in the Union Cabinet, minister for environment and forests T.R. Baalu, to convey a strong message to the Centre.

The thrust of Karunanidhi’s message was that the Centre had done an about-turn on Vaiko’s arrest though top BJP leaders, including president M. Venkaiah Naidu, had categorically said the anti-terror law was “misused” against the MDMK chief.

In his speech, Vaiko had solicited support for the LTTE and urged Delhi to lift the ban on the organisation fighting for a separate Tamil homeland. Jayalalithaa had then invoked the anti-terror law to arrest Vaiko.

The affidavit was also considered “a slap on their (NDA’s Dravidian allies) face” as it followed Karunanidhi’s demand the Centre “withdraw Pota in toto” after launching a protest fast yesterday.

Baalu said from Delhi that the Prime Minister, his deputy and law minister Arun Jaitley had assured him the affidavit was being “corrected” because it was “contrary to the Centre’s stand on this issue”.

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