The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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George heads south to make peace on terror

Chennai, Sept. 18: The National Democratic Alliance’s trouble-shooter, George Fernandes, has again been pressed into service, this time to pacify allies DMK and MDMK.

Fernandes flew to Vellore and Chennai this evening, on the eve of DMK’s Villupuram conference, in what is seen as a last-ditch effort to calm the Tamil Nadu allies on the anti-terror law. He had earlier undertaken similar tours to broker peace with Jayalalithaa when the ADMK chief was part of the national alliance.

The defence minister first met MDMK chief Vaiko at the central prison in Vellore. Later, he took a helicopter to Chennai to call on ailing DMK leader Murasoli Maran at the Apollo Hospitals. There, he spoke to DMK chief M. Karunanidhi.

Karunanidhi had told the Prime Minister during his visit last Saturday that the party meet would discuss the “misuse” of the law, in relation to its use against Vaiko, Tamil Nationalist leader P. Nedumaran and others.

The issue has for months strained both Tamil parties’ ties with the BJP at the Centre as Karunanidhi has been openly demanding the law’s repeal. But the BJP had insisted on a “more stringent Pota (Prevention of Terrorism Act)” after the August 25 twin blasts in Mumbai.

Adding to the strain is MDMK treasurer M. Kannappan’s recent assertion here that his party would continue to morally support the LTTE, an outfit banned in India.

Kannappan’s remarks had followed the restoration of status quo at the Centre with the reinduction of MDMK’s Gingee Ramachandran as a Union minister at the last reshuffle. He had quit last May as minister of state for finance over the “cash-for-transfers scam” in his ministry.

The allies’ fear is that the Jayalalithaa government could now also arrest Kannappan, the Union minister for non-conventional energy sources, under the anti-terror law for his pro-LTTE utterances.

In Vellore, Fernandes told reporters he had carried a message from the Prime Minister to Vaiko. In Chennai, however, he walked away after the 30-minute hospital visit, saying “I have nothing to say”.

Fernandes’ tour is significant as he is said to be trying to keep both allies in good humour with an “assurance” from A.B. Vajpayee. But Karunanidhi said Fernandes did not have any message from the Prime Minister.

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