Opposition to the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for Narendra Modi’s swearing-in escalated in Tamil Nadu Thursday, with Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa expressing her “dismay” and “anguish” at the invitation. The “ill-advised” decision to invite President Rajapaksa, she added, could strain the relationship between the new government at the Centre and the government of Tamil Nadu.
NDA ally Vaiko was the first to oppose the invitation Wednesday. The DMK and various smaller parties joined the chorus, followed by Jayalalithaa whose party, the AIADMK, is the third largest in the Lok Sabha with 37 members.
“We had hoped the new government to be formed at the Centre would be sympathetic to the cause of Tamils and friendly to Tamil Nadu. However, even before the new prime minister and the new government assume office and begin functioning, this unfortunate move of inviting the Sri Lankan President has deeply upset the people of Tamil Nadu and wounded their sentiments all over again. This is tantamount to rubbing salt into the wounds of the already deeply injured Tamil psyche,” Jayalalithaa said in a statement.
“It is with a deep sense of anguish that we point this out to the new government to be formed at the Centre. Particularly, with regard to the relationship of the new central government with the government of Tamil Nadu, it would have been better if this ill-advised move had been avoided.”
Though she has not said it in so many words, the speculation over whether or not Jayalalithaa would attend Modi’s swearing-in on May 26 is being seen as settled with this statement. Jayalalithaa’s statement was uncharacteristically restrained, unlike the all-out attack she had launched when the UPA was in power.
The DMK, meanwhile, urged the prime minister-designate to “understand the feeling of the Tamils”. At a time when the people are yet to get over their anger against the regime there for the human rights violations against Tamils, inviting the president should have been avoided, said DMK organising secretary and spokesperson, T K S Elangovan.
Diplomatic considerations were not a valid reason, added Elangovan, pointing out that the heads of many countries with whom India has good diplomatic relations have not been invited.
Several smaller parties such as the VCK, too, have criticised the move, with some proposing to hold protests across the state on May 26. The only two parties silent so far are NDA allies, the DMDK and the PMK, whose Anbumani Ramadoss was one of the only two alliance candidates to win. Vaiko has sent a letter to Narendra Modi, reiterating Wednesday’s plea.
BJP state president Pon Radhakrishnan said Rajapaksa has been invited as the head of one of the SAARC countries and the government was not organising a banquet for him as the Congress-led UPA had. The new government would ensure the welfare of the Sri Lankan Tamils, he said, and would stop attacks against fishermen from Tamil Nadu.