In 1997, it was the association of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam with the Sri Lankan Tamil issue — then embodied in the persona of Velupillai Prabhakaran and his Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam — that had sealed the fate of the United Front government at the Centre. The issue has once again emerged as the determining factor behind the stability of the Indian government as the DMK finalizes its pull-out from the United Progressive Alliance and its breach with the Congress, its ally since 2004. However, unlike the late 1990s, when the DMK tried its best to live down its association with the LTTE and the grand dream of the Tamil Eelam to escape blame for the assassination of a prime minister, the party has willingly embraced the Sri Lankan Tamil cause for its martyrdom this time. The reason for this is not unfathomable. In both the 2009 general elections and the 2011 assembly elections, the party has found itself on the back foot for failing to make the right noises while the LTTE was decimated in Sri Lanka. For a party with its image battered by scandals and unholy political compromises, the tardy reconciliation process in Sri Lanka has provided the right ballast to stage a political comeback. As is evident from the DMK’s efforts to relaunch the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organization and its criticism of India’s weak-kneed Sri Lanka policy for months now, the party has been trying hard to reclaim the moral guardianship of the Sri Lankan Tamil issue that has been snatched away from it by the stridency of its political rivals on the matter. The DMK’s threat to severe ties with the UPA government, and thereby with the Congress, may go a long way in helping it achieve this goal while relieving it of the compulsions of an unrewarding political alliance on the eve of the 2014 general elections.
Unfortunately, this local game of politics does nothing to further the interests of the people in whose name it is fought. As before, this will provide the Sri Lankan government enough evidence to prove that the international pressure created on it through world fora such as the United Nations human rights council is the result of petty domestic calculations. The Indian government, if it wilts under the pressure of a coalition partner, will also find it difficult to defend its stand against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC, thereby losing its authority as a powerful regional leader that would have, otherwise, helped it chaperone its close neighbour towards lasting peace.