If Rajapaksa flaunts Narendra Modi, Tamil leaders have Jayalalithaa

No sooner than the chief minister of the northern province of Sri Lanka refused to join Mahinda Rajapaksa for the swearing in ceremony of prime minister Narendra Modi, one of the senior most leaders of the Sri Lankan Tamils, R Sampanthan, has asked for a meeting with Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa.

G Pramod Kumar May 30, 2014 13:35:49 IST
If Rajapaksa flaunts Narendra Modi, Tamil leaders have Jayalalithaa

No sooner than the chief minister of the northern province of Sri Lanka refused to join Mahinda Rajapaksa for  the swearing in ceremony of prime minister Narendra Modi, one of the senior most leaders of the Sri Lankan Tamils, R Sampanthan, has asked for a meeting with Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa.

According to a report in THE HINDU, Sampathan congratulated Jayalalithaa, thanked her on her victory in the Lok Sabha elections and conveyed his desire to meet with her. Reportedly, he has said that there was no genuine commitment by Sri Lanka towards the Tamil issue.

The Tamil leader’s effort to reach out to Jayalalithaa is an indication of the increasing defiance of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the local government in the North, and their effort to work closely with Tamil Nadu against the Rajapaksa regime’s intent to work with the government of India.

If Rajapaksa flaunts Narendra Modi Tamil leaders have Jayalalithaa

Jayalalithaa. Reuters.

The Rajapaksa government had expressed happiness that Jayalalithaa has “no influence” on the new government in Delhi. ”A powerful government in Delhi is very good for us. Whatever the decision Centre takes, it will be without any undue influence from states like Tamil Nadu,” Sri Lankan media minister and government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella had said immediately after the Lok Sabha election results. He also said that Rajapaksa was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Modi and both leaders had "a lot of similarities.”

In this context, the effort by Sampanthan is a direct rebuke to the Sri Lankan government. What gives them moral victory is that Jayalaltihaa, despite her good relations with Narendra Modi, boycotted his swearing his ceremony because of Rajapaksa’s presence. Other Tamil parties also had boycotted the swearing for the same reason.

Jayalalithaa has been a staunch supporter of the Tamil cause, particularly after 2009. She has been demanding strong action from the centre to initiate an international investigation against Rajapaksa for his alleged war crimes, to impose an economic embargo on Sri Lanka and even to declare him as a war criminal. If Rajapaksa is flaunting his closeness to Modi, the Tamil leaders are gravitating towards Jayalalithaa, who is unlikely to give up her tough position.

An interesting development in this context will be the meeting between Jayalalithaa and the new prime minster Narendra Modi on 3 June. Although the details of her wish list is not available, the Sri Lankan issue cannot be out of it because that is the reason why she stayed away from the grand swearing in. Modi, given his sworn commitment to the interests of the state, cannot shut his eyes on what Jaya stands for in Sri Lanka. Going by her tough stand during the UPA regime, she most certainly will raise the issue with him.

The Sri Lankan Tamil leaders should be happy that not only Jayalalithaa is close to Narendra Modi, but she is also a tough negotiator. She is a firm proponent of the autonomy of the states and have always wore her wishes on her sleeve. On two occasions, once during the NDA regime and the other during when the UPA was in power, she had walked out of centre’s meetings reaffirming her autonomy.

Anyway it will be interesting to see how the Sri Lankan issue pans out under Narendra Modi. If he surely believes in the importance of the states, he cannot overlook Tamil Nadu’s sentiments. And that will be bad news for Mahinda Rajapaksa. The increasing closeness of the northern provincial council with Tamil Nadu, that too when Jayalalithaa is in power, will be an additional headache for him.

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