Fast friends

Vaiko helps Amma end her hunger strike; expect anything this election

Written by The Indian Express | Published: March 11, 2009 10:33 pm

It’s Indian politics’ most promiscuous season,with causes and allies being picked up with audacious casualness.

Expect anything,even the unbelievable. Even so,the sight of MDMK chief V. Gopalswamy — popularly known as Vaiko — offering AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa Jayaram a glass of juice to call off her day-old fast demands a second look. Take the reason for the fast: Jayalalithaa went without food in solidarity with Sri Lankan Tamils. With the Lankan army seen to be entering an end-game in its battle with the LTTE,hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians remain stranded in the cross-fire. Their plight resonates across the Palk Straits; and sensing electoral harvest,Tamil Nadu politicians are turning up the rhetoric to grab the Tamil solidarity prize. Amma,vociferously anti-LTTE,began the race handicapped. Her one-day fast was perhaps a bid to level the playing field.

The identity of the juice-giver also merits another glance. Though the MDMK is now an ally of the AIADMK,Jayalalithaa and Vaiko have,to put it mildly,a history. In 2002,when Jayalalithaa was chief minister,her government jailed Vaiko for 18 months under the now defunct Prevention of Terrorism

Act,better known as POTA,for statements in support of the LTTE,a terrorist organisation banned in India. Seven years on,Vaiko remains unrepentant. While Amma has been careful to distinguish between being pro-LTTE and pro-civilian Vaiko makes no such distinction. He was briefly arrested once again last October — this time by the Karunanidhi government — for making a speech in support of the LTTE. But as allies in an uncertain battle,Amma and Vaiko need each other. And so all is presumably forgiven.

Since the ’90s,Tamil Nadu’s 39 seats have proved crucial to

capturing power at the Centre. Its electorate votes decisively for the DMK or AIADMK by turns — in the last general elections the AIADMK won a sum total of zero seats. This time round,Amma is hoping for the pendulum to swing her way. Friendly fasts and fast friendships might just add momentum to the swing. The bonhomie between the jailer and the jailed,over the very cause that divided them,proves once again that in this election season absolutely anything is possible.

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