10th October 1999

Front Page|
Editorial/Opinion| Plus|
Business|Sports Sports Plus|
Mirror Magazine

The Sunday Times on the Web


Tamil Nadu: No big waves, but numbers will count

By D.B. S. Jeyaraj

Results have been announced for 538 seats in the Lower House (Lok Sabha) of the Indian Parliament as this article is being written. The Indian electorate that has been consistently electing hung Parliaments on four earlier occasions (1989,91,96,98) has remained true to form this time too. The 13th Lok Sabha has returned 291 for the Bharatiya Janatha Party combine, 139 for the Congress and allies. Others including leftist, regional and casteist parties have obtained 109. The BJP in contrast with its position last year is better equipped to form a relatively stable government this time though its overall tally has not improved much beyond the previous 181.

The Congress that had 141 on its own last time has dropped to 139. This however is no firm index of strength as it has increased its voter percentage from 26% to 27% this time while the BJP has dropped three percent to 23%(Based on 527 electorates).Though Atal Behari Vajpayee who was Prime Minister for 13 days in 1996 and 13 months in 1998 - 99 has become premier of the world's largest democracy for the third time it is difficult to predict the longevity of his term of office because he is presiding once more over a loose coalition of 24 parties calling themselves the National Democratic Alliance.

While a detailed analysis of the electoral verdict is not possible at this juncture a brief examination of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu is of importance. Tamil Nadu is the closest Indian state to Sri Lanka and is of immense strategic importance to us because of its geo-political significance. Of the 39 seats allotted to Tamil Nadu the BJP in alliance with the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazghagham led by chief minister M. Karunanidhi and other smaller parties has got 26. The Congress technically allied to the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazghagham led by ex-chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram and left parties obtained 13. The predominantly Tamil union territory of Pondicherry was also won by the Congress which fielded Farook Marikkar who has been earlier chief minister, speaker and union cabinet minister.

Of the seat tally in Tamil Nadu the DMK got 11, the Pattaligal Makkal Katchi 5; BJP 4;Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazghagham 4;MGR Anna DMK 1; and MGR Peoples party 1. Of the other 13 the AIADMK got 10; Congress 2 and the Indian Marxist Party 1. A third front comprising the Tamil Maanila Congress and allies were wiped out on the electoral map. When compared to last year's polls all parties who won seats this time with the exception of Jayalalitha's outfit that won 18 last year seem to have done well. While her tally has dropped to 10 , the DMK has gone up to 11 from 6. The BJP, PMK and MDMK have increased one each to 4,5 and 6 respectively. The Congress from nil has got 2 this time while the marxists too from zero last year have opened their account with one. Two breakaways from the ADMK founded by MG Ramachandran and whose parties bear MGR's name have also got one each.

Interestingly this year's political configurations were a complete turnaround from last year.The 1998 polls saw the AIADMK(18) BJP(3), PMK (4), MDMK (3)and two other parties the Tamil Nadu Janatha Party(1) and Tamil Nadu Rajiv Congress (1)contest and win together 30 out of 39.The DMK along with the TMK won 5 and 3 respectively while the Indian Communist party got one. The Congress contesting separately failed to get even one. This time the ADMK split with the BJP while the DMK parted ways with the TMK.Parties like the PMK, MDMK and TRC joined the BJP-DMK combine. The AIADMK teamed up nominally with the Congress and contested along with the left parties. The TMK formed a third front in alliance with Dalit(harijans) and religious minority parties.It got nothing this time.

An interesting phenomenon of the Tamil Nadu results is the "North- South "divide within. Most of the electorates in the northern parts of the state including three in the Chennai metropolis were won by the DMK alliance. The virtual sweep as in the north was not possible in the Southern areas of Tamil Nadu where the AIADMK combine was able to do reasonably well. The two exceptions were in Salem in the north where ex-union minister V. Ramamurthy contesting as the TRC candidate on the NDA list lost and in southern Nagapattinam where the Communist party candidate of the ADMK combine lost.

The Tamil Nadu results however possess a strong caste connotation and sadly the electoral verdict can be understood only in that context. The PMK is essentially a caste based party representing the Vanniyars who claim to be the single largest caste grouping in Tamil Nadu. Next come the Dalits or harijans who are themselves of four major caste groupings. The third strong caste bloc is the Mukku-lathor comprising Devars. Maravar and Ahamudaiar.

Other numerically strong and one time influential caste groups are the Vellalars(Pillais and Mudaliyars) and Nadars. They do not have much political clout nowadays because they are fragmented in all political parties. There is also the numerically small but economically powerful Brahmins and Chetties.

Both the DMK and AIADMK and the Congress have had a base comprising all segments of these castes at one time. In the current phase of polls the DMK - BJP combine was supported to a great extent by the Vanniyar caste because of the PMK.

The Mukkulathor community has after the decline of the Forward Bloc identified with MGR's ADMK. In recent times the emergence of Jayalalitha's "Life friend" Sashikala (of mukkula caste) as a centre of power has tilted the scales further in Jayalalitha's favour . All the caste organizations supported the AIADMK.Since this caste is concentrated in the South the AIADMK was able to do well.

The third caste grouping of Dalits were with the TMK led by Moopanaar. Though it contested on a casteist platform it did not meet with much success. For one thing other castes refrained from voting for what was in their eyes a "Low caste" platform. Moreover the so called Dalits too did not vote en bloc for this alliance. The hold of the AIADMK because of the MGR image was still great. Then there were the intra caste differences among Dalit leaders themselves. Finally there was the Moopanar persona. TMK leader G Karuppia Moopanar is an upper caste feudal land owner who still calls himself by his caste suffix "Moopanar".

Thus this combine suffered both ways by neither getting Dalit nor other caste votes. It came third in all electorates except two where Dalit leaders Dr. Krishnaswamy of Puthiya Thamilagam and Thirumaavalavan of Dalit Panthers came second.17 of the TMC candidates lost their deposits. The shocking defeats were those of former cabinet ministers P Chidambaram (No stranger to Lanka) and SR Balaubramaniyam. The TMC itself is a break away from the Congress. The TMC described the DMK-BJP combine as "communalist" and the AIADMK alliance as "Corrupt" and projected a third front as the new way.

The ruling DMK led alliance apart from Vanniyar support was successful also because of other factors. Its break away the MDMK led by Vaiko (Gopalaswamy) commands even support of about 5 to 10% in all parts of the country. This comprises the Tamils of Telugu origin and the younger elements of the Dravidian movement. Likewise the BJP too with its Hindu fundamentalism has even support of 5 to 10%.

For the AIADMK it was a case of the multi- caste base created and nurtured by MGR remaining intact without much erosion. The added support of Mukkulathor support enhanced it further. Also the Congress can be happy in that much of its eroded support is now returning particularly among the Dalits and religious minorities. The AIADMK - Congress alliance could have fared much better if not for Jayalalitha's inexplicable tantrums. She deliberately kept away from all meetings addressed by Sonia and did not even refer to her in her speeches. It was for practical purposes an alliance only in name. the AIADMK sabotaged the Congress in all electorates and the Congress won in three because of the personal popularity of Mani Shankar Aiyer (Mayilaaduthurai) Sudharsana Nachiyappan (Sivaganga) and Farook Marikkar in Pondicherry.

Thus whatever the charges of corruption against Jayalalitha and the revulsion because of her arrogant conduct that toppled the BJP government she seems to have retained the mass base that she inherited from MGR. A case in point is the victory of Thinakaran a nephew of Shashikala contesting the first time and winning despite many cases of corruption. Given the irritation caused by her earlier it can be expected that the DMK at the state level and the BJP at the center will do their utmost to expedite the cases against her and see that she is behind bars. Otherwise with her ill- accumulated wealth, 10 seats and mass base Jayalalitha can continue to be a major player on the political scene

The Tamil Nadu election scene did not see any wave. It was more a case of arithmetic based on the numerical strength of which caste dominated where. For the incumbent DMK the results cannot be satisfactory as both by elections to the State legislature were defeats.

It is too early to predict what the fall out from this election is likely to be for Sri Lanka.

The pro - LTTE press abroad hails it as a great victory for the BJP.But it is difficult to assess what the BJP will do on the Sri Lankan issue right now. There is the PMK and MDMK and Tamil Nadu parties close to the LTTE who have urged Indian intervention to create Tamil Eelam. But on the other hand the once bitten twice shy DMK is not likely to urge any extreme option and would very likely be a restraining factor. Murasoli Maran the senior DMK stalwart and Karunanidhi's nephew will be a cabinet minister and most probably shape government thinking on the issue. He is no friend of the LTTE. Also there is a rumour that Maran may replace George Fernandes as defence minister. Among north Indian politicians Fernandes is supposedly closest to the Tigers. Two other LTTE haters Valappady Ramamurthy and Subramaniam Swamy have lost in Salem and Madurai respectively. But two other influential politicians who are opposed to LTTE politics like Rangarajan Kumaramangalam (BJP) and MS Aiyer (Cong) have been elected from Trichi and Mayilaaduthurai. Of course had Sonia Gandhi won with a viable majority major policy shifts adversely affecting the LTTE may have been possible. There is also the possibility of Jayalalitha raking up the Tamil issue to embarrass the Indian government. But the long term consequences for Sri Lanka vis a vis India can change only when the LTTE adopts a Hindutva ideology and establishes institutional linkages with the BJP. That of course is not an immediate prospect. So a coalition government in New Delhi whose priority would be self preservation can be expected to continue without changing the prevailing policies on Sri Lanka very much.

Ponnambalam's reply to Jeyaraj

I see no attempt to answer my queries

By now Jeyaraj would have seen my unedited open-letter to him which is on the Internet after "The Sunday Times" published only an edited version on 26-09-1999.

"The Sunday Times" which published his reply to me on 3-10-1999, did not publish almost one-third of my open-letter to Jeyaraj for the obvious reason that if that one-third was published, they would not be able to publish Jeyaraj's 'stuff' thereafter because his credibility would have been completely 'gone.'

But what, indeed, was Jeyaraj's reply to my open letter to him which was published in "The Sunday Times" on 3-10-99? Did he attempt, repeat attempt, to answer even one of the questions I raised in my letter?

Instead, the entirety of Jeyaraj's reply has been a personal reference to me and my family and nothing more. "The Sunday Times" should be ashamed of itself for having published this.

The Sunday Times on 26-09-1999 published a truncated version of my open letter, omitting that passage where I alleged mala fides on the part of Jeyaraj in his reference to me in his two-part article.

I said there that I had refused to speak to Jeyaraj when he tried to contact me in December 1997 when I was in Canada. I now ask him publicly why he wanted to speak to a person who had been consistently rejected by Tamil voters? What is it that he and I have in common? Jeyaraj says I have a perpetual chip on my shoulders. Of course Jeyaraj is best suited, by virtue of his tremendous intellectual and academic attainments, to psycho-analyze people!

Jeyaraj says that Tiruchelvam, "the great man that he was", "would never allow any of his friends to" defend him and he makes reference to me and refers to some private conversation between Tiruchelvam and himself. Even in his two-part article Jeyaraj has written about only some private conversations, at best, between Tiruchelvam and himself.

Jeyaraj refers to a statement I made about M. Tiruchelvam. That statement I made not in my open letter to him in The Sunday Times but in an article that was published in another English daily on 15-09-1999.

I might have made a mistake. If I had made a mistake I am ready to apologise unreservedly. I read of it in some other article. I am checking on this. But this is only one of the very many points I made in that article and also in my open-letter.

Jeyaraj says I "wanted to appear in the (Duraiappah) trial but could not do so because all the seven accused were firmly opposed to it". This is a lie. Jeyaraj does not know that the accused did not object to my appearing and that I did appear in the case.

Jeyaraj refers to Prabhakaran as my current leader. This will be a good moment to find out about Jeyaraj. Who is this D.B.S. Jeyaraj? He talked of "Tiger fellow travellers who had their petty pick axes to grind" in his two-part article. Did he also not hitch his own wagon to the LTTE star? Is it not the fact that when he was in Sri Lanka, he would religiously make a pilgrimage every weekend to the LTTE camps in the Jaffna Peninsula in order to be with Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya, to pick up the crumbs to use in his columns the following week?

Having gone to Canada, when the crisis about Mahattaya erupted, did he not publish in his own Tamil weekly "Manjari" that Prabhakaran is a fine fellow who will do the correct thing by Mahattaya and that very same week, in his weekly dispatch to the English "The Island" in Colombo did he not write that Prabhakaran is a God-forsaken guy who will not play fair by Mahattaya? Did he not take up this diametrically opposite positions, at the same moment, hoping that the Tigers will not see the English "Island"? Did not this diabolical act of his land him in a crisis which led to his own "Manjari" being closed down?

Jeyaraj says Tiruchelvam made many speeches in Parliament on the predicament of the Tamils. But Jeyaraj who "receives the Hansard by sea mail" fails to give references to any such speech!

He speaks of the Parliamentary seat spurned by Tiruchelvam when Yogasangari"s seat became vacant. The Tamils know that Tiruchelvam had made all the plans to take his oaths but was intimidated and forced into not accepting that seat by the EPRLF which contested under the TULF banner in 1989, on the grounds that Yogasangari was an EPRLF man and, therefore, the vacancy should be filled only by an EPRLF person. This talk of the large-hearted gesture of Tiruchelvam giving way to a Muslim because Muslims were chased away from the North is coming out for the first time only now. Will Jeyaraj state in which newspaper this position appeared? Or, is this also some private communication between Tiruchelvam and Jeyaraj? Jeyaraj refers to the General Elections of 1989 and compares the number of votes received by Tiruchelvam and myself. Jeyaraj does not mention what the whole world knows that the TULF contested, embracing all other Tamil militant groups except the EROS, under the command of the Indian High Commissioner and when the IPKF which was in situ in the north.

The Tamil Congress contested without a friend in such a setup. The Tamils of the peninsula also know how only Tiruchelvam's posters, having his photograph, were plastered on the walls of Jaffna, to the total exclusion of the others, literally overnight. How come? Ask the IPKF! In any case, would Jeyaraj say that even the 1989 General Election was a free and fair one, as far as the Tamil areas were concerned?

Jeyaraj says I am "not being truthful when you say that you all were keeping quiet and that you were provoked into writing against Neelan because others were praising him." I wrote in my article of 15-9-99 that it was when the question was asked as to whether "the Tamils have mortgaged their souls to the LTTE" because they did not react to the death of Tiruchelvam that I was stating what was largely the perception of the Tamil people. The Tamils are not concerned about "the shock waves among the national and international community". The national eulogies were from the Sinhalese quarter.

Jeyaraj asks why I did not do anything for the Tamils in 1988 when I was "close to Ms. Bandaranaike", whilst I am blaming Tiruchelvam for not doing anything for the Tamils under the present regime. Jeyaraj's dishonesty is such that he is unwilling to disclose that whilst Ms. Bandaranaike did not form the Government in December 1988, Tiruchelvam's Kumaratunga did form a Govemment and is in a position to do things.

Jeyaraj says that I asked Ms. Bandaranaike not to forget her "Kalu Putha". That is not what I said and the Tamils have not forgotten that either!

As to the legal points Jeyaraj raises, he can ask the present Govemment, to bring the necessary laws on defamation immediately as they are desperately in the mood to do so, as we can see!

Jeyaraj complains about the vilification campaign that contributed to Tiruchelvam's assassination. Even in his two-part article he complained of a Tamil tabloid in Colombo without naming it "which led and continued to lead the media hound pack in a vicious campaign against Tiruchelvam".

So, it is not only individuals but also Tamil tabloids and media hound packs! But why was Jeyaraj not naming this Tamil tabloid? Why is Jeyaraj talking of a Tamil tabloid in an English article?

Jeyaraj had the audacity to write that "most of this maligning is based on whole-sale distortion of truth". When he realised all this, did he go to the defence of Tiruchelvam? If this is so, why did he not seek to bring out the truth? Why is his role negative? If he had the truth on his side, why was he not man enough to rise to the occasion? This man Jeyaraj takes high ground and states "neither my praising him nor your debasing him will affect his name in the long run". But is all this only "empty rhetoric", for, in the concluding passages of his two-part article, he feebly and pathetically wants to salvage Tiruchelvam's reputation among the Tamils "and suggest publishing the various Parliamentary speeches he made and the memoranda he wrote on behalf of the Tamils".

Jeyaraj challenges me. There is a Tamil saying that "a rat which could not escape itself tried to take a broom-stick with it"! Let Jeyaraj first start by answering the various questions in my article of 15-9-1999 and my open-letter to him, then let him restart publishing his Tamil weekly "Manjari", which are challenges in themselves.

Jeyaraj refers to a Tamil politician who had been helped by Tiruchelvam and Prof. G.L. Pieris "to obtain seats of higher education for his daughter and son in the West".Let Jeyaraj name that Tamil politician. Or, is this also some private communication between Tiruchelvam and himself?

Jeyaraj talks about "the politician who wrote to his alma mater abroad seeking university admission on the grounds that Tamils were not being admitted to varsities in Lanka". Let him name the politician and the alma mater concerned and publish the document or letter which he is privy to or get that alma mater to do so.

Does not D.B.S. Jeyaraj realize that by his ill-conceived two-part article he has not only shown the international community but also the world how universally antagonistic the Tamils are towards his "ultimate Karmayogi and a living embodiment of the Gita's essence"?

- G.G. Ponnambalam

Index Page

Front Page





Sports Plus

Mirrror Magazine

Return to News/Comments Contents

Last week's News/Comments


News/Comments Archives

Front Page| Editorial/Opinion| Plus| Business|  Sports| Sports Plus| Mirror Magazine

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd. Hosted By LAcNet

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.