Sri Lanka issue: Will Manmohan Singh’s Government Fall
Syed Ali Mujtaba
The ultimatum given by the ruling DMK government in Tamil Nadu to pull down the UPA government has once again brought the India’s Sri Lanka policy on the center stage of Indian politics. The way Tamil Nadu politicians are clamoring to stop the ethic war in Sri Lanka, its likely that in case if they pull out from the ruling coalition, the ruling UPA government will soon be reduced to minority. The million dollar question is, will the New Delhi bend to the demand of the Tamil Nadu politicians, and will the DMK and its will allies really pull out from the UPA government?
One has to be clear that there exists two policies in India as far as India –Srilanka relations are concerned. One policy is guided from Chennai and other from New Delhi. Both operate independently as both addresses separate constituencies. There is always divergence and convergence between the two policies. There are times when Chennai’s policy dominates the New Delhi and when New Delhi over rules the Chennai policy. Whenever there is weak coalition government in New Delhi that depends on the support of Tamil Nadu allies, the Chennai policy prevails over the New Delhi and the vice versa.
Now if we see the current political situation in Sri Lanka and analyze the two Indian policies, the picture may become somewhat clear. The compulsion of the Tamil Nadu politics is to side with the Tamils who are taking a heavy beating in Sri Lanka. This is a huge political issue in Tamil Nadu and no political party can go against supporting the Tamil cause. In Tamil Nadu people do get motivated on the ethnic imbroglio in Sri Lanka and the political parties play to the galleries on this to keep their vote bank intact and to enlist more supporters to their camp.
It has also to be made clear here that there is no unity on the Sri Lankan issue among the political parties in Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK which is second most important political block in the state is opposed to the resolution adopted by the DMK and its allies. If the situation arises Jayalalitha can easily fill the DMKs position. The Tamil Nadu Congress chief Thangabalu has made it clear that he will follow the party high commands orders and would not toe the DMK line.
If this being the case, can Tamil Nadu politician arm twist New Delhi to ask the Sri Lankan government to halt the war. My answer is NO. Why? Well the general election in India is due in March. If the DMK and its allies pull out of the UPA alliance, and in case the UPA government is reduced to minority, the government will declare for general elections. In that case the ruling dispensation will assume the role of a care take government and no policy decision during that period is possible and this may continue till April next year.
Now, the whole question is whether the DMK and its allies would pull out from the UPA government. This again is very unlikely. The election in Tamil Nadu is still far away and ruling DMK would not like to sacrifice its government at this stage. As such the ruling coalition is not so stable in the state. The PMK is out of the state alliance. The left parties are keeping distance. The DMK government survives with the Congress support and if the DMK-Congress alliance breaks in New Delhi, then Congress will walk out of the state alliance and this would reduce the DMK government into a minority.
So in that case what we can infer from the resignation drama going on in Tamil Nadu. That only means the resignation threat by the DMK MPs is only an act of political posturing. It can also be construed to divert the people's attention from serious state issues such as power cut and price rise.
If that is the case what would be the India’s policy towards Sri Lanka? The New Delhi has made up its mind that it is going to maintain hands-off policy towards Sri Lanka. Now it sees LTTE as a terrorist’s organization and cannot come in front to officially support it even though it has once groomed and nurtured it. It means India is supporting a unitary Sri Lankan state and that in reality translates to a Sinhala Buddhist state. This is in tune with the New Delhi’s outlook of soft saffron Indian state, where religious minorities are destined to play a second fiddle and subservient role. In this framework on the alter of democracy, the Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka are being sacrificed and left on the lurch, like the case of religious minorities in India.
So whatever Tamil Nadu’s compulsion be towards the Tamil Elam cause, in the current context it would hardly be successful to arm twist New Delhi as it can not rock the UPA boat for the fear of digging its own grave.
So, where we do go from here? Well the Sinhala Buddhist forces have over six months to overwhelm the Hindu Tamil side, if it can do so, it will be able to bring a lull into the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka. If it can’t, then if the New Delhi’s policy gets dependent on Tamil Nadu would decide the future course of events after the next general elections.
As of now the Sri Lankan issue has provided a heaven sent opportunity to the UPA government. It has come handy to the Manmohan Singhji who has been shying from the opposition and to face them in Parliament. He can use the Sri Lankan issue as a diversionary tactic from addressing other issues facing the country. It seems, the climax scene of the ethnic war in Sri Lanka is clearly scripted. The likely course would be; while the New Delhi talk’s tough with Sri Lanka, it can look the other way when the Sri Lankan forces zero in on LTTE strongholds.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org