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LTTE chief no ultra: Karuna
DMK supremo’s pro-Prabhakaran remark unwelcome to Congress
R Sedhuraman
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 19
The LTTE issue today threatened to strain the relations between the Congress and the DMK, with the Congress rejecting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's assertion that LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was a "good friend" and "not a terrorist".

According to the Congress, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is a terrorist outfit and its activists are terrorists, party leader Kapil Sibal told reporters. The Congress leader also made it clear that his party would press for Prabhakaran's extradition, if he was captured alive in Sri Lanka, apparently to make the LTTE chief face judicial trial in the case relating to the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi.

Sibal, however, sought to make light of Karunanidhi's remark by terming it the DMK leader's "personal opinion". The DMK supremo, who heads the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA) in Tamil Nadu where the UPA is known by this name, has also expressed his sentiment that it would be sad if Prabhakaran was killed by the Sri Lankan forces.

"I will deeply regret it (Prabhakaran’s killing). I will say that it happened because of lack of unity among the Tamil community in Sri Lanka," he said in a reference to the differences between various Tamil outfits in Sri Lanka.

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister sought to defend Prabhakaran, saying that it is not the LTTE chief's fault if some people of his outfit had taken to terrorism. "Those in Prabhakaran's group have taken to terrorism. But that is not his (Prabhakaran's) fault," he said.

Karunanidhi said the only time he had differences with Prabhakaran was when the LTTE chief told an interview that he will not allow democracy to thrive if he achieved Tamil Eelam.

"As far as Prabhakaran is concerned the only time I had a difference of opinion with him is when he gave an interview to 'Frontline Magazine. He was asked "If you manage to get Tamil Eelam, will you government be democratic? He said It will not happen. It will be a dictatorship. That was the only difference of opinion I had with him," Karunanidhi said.

Tamil Nadu is slated to go to the polls in the last phase on May 13. Obviously in an attempt to cash in on the Congress-BJP standoff on the issue, the BJP said there was "no logic" in Sibal's clarification.

The Congress had brought down the United Front government at the Centre in 1997 after the Jain Commission, which had gone into the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, indicted Karunanidhi, BJP leader Prakash Javdekar reasoned.

Karunanidhi's comments put the Congress in a spot, which stopped short of outright condemnation with the Tamils’ issue, following the hostilities in Sri Lanka, emerging as a major campaign issue in Tamil Nadu.

Karunanidhi, who has strong views on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue and on the LTTE which is banned in India, said the LTTE had "genuine and legitimate" goals of creating an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka, but certain methods adopted by it were wrong.

"Prabhakaran is my good friend. I am not a terrorist," Karunanidhi said in an interview to a news channel when asked whether he saw the LTTE supremo a terrorist.

Another spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the Congress-led UPA government valued its long association with the DMK. "We have a valuable ally and a partner in Tamil Nadu but that cannot mean what our unequivocal established policy (on LTTE) can change.” (with inputs from PTI)

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