The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Orator Vaiko’s stock soars

Chennai, May 22: The list of NDA allies calling on MDMK leader Vaiko in Vellore jail indicates that his almost year-long absence from Parliament and state politics as a forceful speaker is being keenly felt, particularly as parties go into the parliamentary poll mode.

Newly-elected state BJP president C.P. Radhakrishnan visited Vaiko a couple of days ago to reassure him that his party felt that the Prevention of Terrorism Act had been “grossly misused” in his case.

Radhakrishnan said Vaiko’s detention had “caused unspeakable grief to the BJP cadres”, which sources interpreted as acknowledgement of his ability as a crowdpuller and indication that the party would not like to lose a terrific campaigner like Vaiko in the run-up to the 2004 Lok Sabha poll.

The sources pointed out that the BJP was going out of its way to keep Vaiko in good humour but did not extend the same cordiality towards another anti-terror law detainee, P. Nedumaran of the Tamils Nationalist Movement.

The BJP leadership has time and again acknowledged that Vaiko has been a “solid pillar of defence” for the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime in Parliament and, though his strident pro-LTTE stance does not go down well with the party, has kept in touch with Vaiko and his beleaguered MDMK.

The DMK, too, has been speaking out against Vaiko’s detention. It cannot be put down only to targeting chief minister Jayalalithaa; the MDMK leader’s prolonged absence from the state arena has begun to worry the party over the lack of an “effective campaign man”.

The DMK’s keenness in having Vaiko by its side is apparent in the two visits M. Karunanidhi has paid his friend-turned-foe in jail.

More recently, DMK youth wing leader M.K. Stalin, long considered Vaiko’s bete noire, also met him.

These meetings have fuelled speculation that Vaiko could return to the DMK despite MDMK presidium chairman . Ganesan categorically denying any move to merge the parties. The DMK’s interest in the impressive political speaker has shot up in the wake of the latest squabble between factions headed by Karunanidhi’s sons, M.K. Stalin and M.K. Azhagiri, and distrust of the PMK.

The sources said if the “close coordination and brotherly ties” between the two parties continued, the DMK would not shirk from using Vaiko’s oratorical skills to present a united face of the Dravidian forces as Karunanidhi alone will not be able to take the load of the campaign.

In the 1999 general election, he was a “great campaigner” for Vajpayee, focusing on the Kargil war.

Vaiko himself rued the silencing of his voice in the latest letter he has written to the MDMK cadres from prison. The letter, released to the media, said: “By the Lok Sabha records, I have lost a year now; my voice has ceased to resonate in Parliament on the banks of the Yamuna… I (by being jailed) have been prevented from discharging my duties towards my Sivakasi constituency people. History will not forgive those who stifle the voice of democracy.”

Vaiko and his allies are pinning their hope of restoring the “resonating voice” on the Supreme Court verdict on the petition challenging Section 21 of the anti-terror Act. The state BJP president told reporters after his visit to Vaiko that the Centre had “rectified” its earlier “mistaken” affidavit, in which it had said Vaiko’s speech in June last year in support of the Tamil Tigers “amounted to a terrorist act”.

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