UPA survives, for now.
By Neethu M Eldose
NEW DELHI: The United Progressive Alliance coalition is in trouble after its staunch southern ally, DMK, pulled out its support of 18 members from Tamil Nadu, over what it sees as lackadaisical attitude of the Indian government to human rights violations in Sri Lanka, where they allege a genocide has been waged against the minority Tamil community, and wants an independent probe to be initiated.
The dramatic events of the last few days, which may yet topple the fragile ruling UPA government, unfolded as the Congress party’s tactics failed to transform the mind of the DMK leader M Karunanidhi, on the issue of the United States-led resolution to UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Commission) against Sri Lanka.
DMK has asked the government to introduce a strong language in the US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. They also demand the Indian Parliament to adopt a resolution against Sri Lanka before the vote is held in Geneva on March 21-22.
A late attempt by three Congress party veterans, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Defence Minister A K Antony and Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, to mollify Karunanidhi went in vain as he remained firm on his decision regarding proposed amendments by India to the US resolution in the UNHRC: to seek an international, independent probe against Sri Lanka.
Chidambaram reiterated, in a move also to try placate the DMK, that the Indian government is in support that a strong decision be taken on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue at the United Nations.
“India’s position has always been and remains that the UNHRC should adopt a strong resolution that would send a resolute message to Sri Lanka and goad Sri Lanka to accept an independent and credible investigation,” Chidambaram said.
Reports say that the government’s draft on Sri Lanka calls for an “independent and credible investigation into the alleged war crimes by the Lankan army against the Tamil Eelams.”
Even as the political crisis unfolded, the UPA portrayed normality, reiterating that the ‘government is not “a lame duck” and is “absolutely stable”’.
Now the political gamble to stay in power and ward off early elections is on as the government has to ensure support from its warring northern allies, BSP and SP.
And the Congress is in an appeasing mode. Party president Sonia Gandhi met the SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav earlier this week, trying to soothe matters over a tiff he had with cabinet minister Beni Prasad Verma. She also told Congress MPs at a meeting that India is fully committed to the cause of Lankan Tamils and an impartial inquiry will be initiated into the allegations of atrocities against them. Yadav, however, left continued support to the coalition in doubt, as he said that a decision would be taken after the SP leaders meet tomorrow.
As political wrangles continue, the BSP supremo Mayawati extended her party’s support to the government, from outside. It remains to be seen in what ways the UPA would have to compromise on BSP demands in the future.
For now at least, the Congress-led government enjoys a total support of 53 members from its partners: SP-22, BSP-21, JD-S-3, RJD-3, Independents-4. Thus, despite the loss of the DMK support, the UPA, with its total of 229 seats, retains majority with 282 seats.
The UPA can also take heart from their estranged partner, Mamata Banerjee-led TMC’s support to its stance on Sri Lanka.
One of the TMC’s tweet on its official website said, “On matters of external policy, we have, from the beginning, always left it to central government in moments of crisis. We will do the same on this occasion.”
An All Party meeting called by the Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar, to bring a consensus on the Sri Lankan-Tamils issue also went in vain as it ended in a cacophony of differences as most of the political parties were opposed to the idea of adopting a resolution against a regional ally Sri Lanka, barring DMK and AIDMK.
The Sri Lankan-LTTE conflict has been a queasy political issue for India, since the Lankan forces crushed LTTE in 2009 after almost three decades of brutal fighting. The issue gained momentum when gruesome pictures surfaced, allegedly of the late LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s son.
However, most Indian politicians, barring parties in Tamil Nadu, feel the country is indebted to Sri Lanka for its support when China attacked India in 1962.