Despite its devious efforts to muddy the waters during the UNHRC vote against Sri Lanka in Geneva last month, the Congress’ game-plan in handling a rogue-neighbour appeared too obvious to overlook: support the Rajapakse regime even while appearing to oppose it.
For some strange reason, the Congress leadership has been playing this game for quite a while with impunity, whether the people of Tamil Nadu liked it or not.
Therefore on Sunday, when Finance Minister P Chidambaram and environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan tried to strike a discordant note on the ethnic issue, it did nothing other than amplifying the Congress’ crude doublespeak.
Jayanthi wanted the trade body FICCI to cancel a scheduled trip of MPs to Sri Lanka, while Chidambaram blamed the BJP for the non-passage of a resolution on Sri Lankan Tamils in Parliament.
Had the Congress been resolute, it could have certainly told Sri Lanka what the international community and the rights groups have been been telling them: you have done something terribly wrong and you are still continuing with your thuggish ways; account for it and change your ways, or else, face the music.
Instead, the party continued its effete lip-service at rehabilitation and reconciliation which sound annoyingly hollow in an atmosphere of fear, war-triumphalism and racial marginalisation.
This conversation between Salman Khurshid and journalist Karan Thapar last month on CNN-IBN exposed the Congress’ stand on the issue:
Karan Thapar: You say you have taken the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution on board and you say it is in sync with the feelings that many people have within your party.
Salman Khurshid: Not all of it, but a lot of it.
Karan Thapar: I want to ask - are you for instance considering declaring the country unfriendly?
Salman Khurshid: No.
Karan Thapar: Are you considering economic sanctions?
Salman Khurshid: No.
Karan Thapar: Would you consider at the UN passing a resolution or encouraging people to pass a resolution to call for a referendum on Eelam?
Salman Khurshid: No.
Karan Thapar: So, in other words those three critical aspects of the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution, you've rejected?
Salman Khurshid: Long ago. I mean there is no question of accepting that and that is not the only state that has a stake in this. What about the other states? There are many other assemblies. The rest of India is not supporting this. If all of India was supporting it, it would be another matter. But if one state supports something we are sensitive to their concerns, but we don't have to necessarily accept everything they say.
Now that much water has flown under the Napier bridge, the Congress is back at its game of deception in Tamil Nadu. On Sunday, Jayanthi Natarajan asked FICCI to "cancel a trip of MPs to Sri Lanka “in solidarity with the sufferings of innocent civilian Tamils in Sri Lanka and out of respect for the feelings of the people of Tamil Nadu.”
While the FICCI said, curiously though, that the proposed trip was an effort at track-II diplomacy, Jayanthi said the intention and the trip were contrary to the anger and sorrow felt by the people of Tamil Nadu regarding the human rights violations by the Sri Lankan government. She went on to add everything that the international community and rights groups, including within Sri Lanka, had said while mobilising support for a strong UNHRC resolution.
Unfortunately what beggars common sense is why she didn’t say the same things to Salman Khurshid or her party high command when thousands of students and activists were on the streets a month ago demanding action from Delhi at the UNHRC?
Why didn’t she raise her voice when Salman Khurshid was trying his game of filibustering by repeating diplomatic inanities and reeling out data from the government’s Sri Lankan account-book? Why didn’t she say something when Salman Khurshid slightingly said that Tamil Nadu’s voice was not that of India?
Now, this week’s second voice that betrays Congress’ doublespeak: from none other than the suave P Chidamabaram.
Not surprisingly, he took a different route in displaying his party’s forked-tongue: blaming the BJP. He said that the Congress was keen to pass a resolution in the parliament on the issue, but for the BJP.
"It is the Congress party that supported the resolution against Sri Lanka in the parliament, the AIADMK and DMK supported it because they belong to Tamil Nadu. No other party in the Parliament supported the resolution; the people of Tamil Nadu must understand it. The BJP did not support it," he added, according to an ANI report
Wait a minute. Wasn’t it Salman Khurshid who said that Tamil Nadu was not the only state that had a stake in Sri Lankan Tamils and that his government didn’t have to necessarily accept everything that Tamil Nadu said?
The compulsions of Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu are understandable. They have a crucial Parliament election round the corner and at the moment they are most likely to be a political untouchable.
Even with about 10 percent vote-share, they may end up without good suitors. The Congress, particularly Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, were the targets of anger and derision of the students during their anti-Sri Lankan agitation last month. With MK Stalin more or less calling the shots, the DMK wouldn’t want to touch the party with a bargepole.
Therefore, the efforts of Jayanthi and Chidambaram, preceded by shipping minister Vasan, are to scrub the party clean of its Sri Lankan slur and see if it looks good enough for the DMK. Some analysts feel that if the Congress gains some lost ground, the DMK might be willing to take some risks for arithmetic reasons. But it is too wishful a proposition.
Even while reconciling with the helplessness of Congress leaders from Tamil Nadu, the party’s double-speak is nauseating because of the way it belittles the electorate. If the party thinks that it can hoodwink people on such strong emotional issues even with the present profusion of media, it betrays a complete lack of fortitude.
As Firstpost had reported earlier, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the powerful defence secretary of Sri Lanka, recently made it abundantly clear that his government had kept New Delhi informed of every step during the war.
“President went out of his way to keep New Delhi briefed on developments at all times. In addition, a special bilateral committee was set up at the highest level, including then Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse, Secretary to the President Lalith Veerathunga and myself as Defence Secretary from the Sri Lankan side, and former National Security Advisor MK Narayanan, then Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and then Defence Secretary Vijay Singh on the Indian side. This troika had continuous discussions and ensured that any sensitive issues were dealt with as soon as they arose.”
Where were the Congress leaders then?
Why didn’t they raise questions when their government was apparently complicit in a human rights and ethnic disaster? Did their government keep them in the dark or did they just keep quiet?
And finally, what’s the point of talking now when the holocaust is over? Will they help fixing accountability of the alleged war crimes and rights violations?
Not that it’s only the Congress which is engaging in double-speak and double-games. Look at the DMK.
More on that later.
Updated Date: Apr 08, 2013 14:29 PM