Pro-LTTE parties routed as Sri Lanka overruns LTTE zone

May 16th, 2009 - 7:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi By M.R. Narayan Swamy
New Delhi/Chennai/Colombo, May 16 (IANS) In a dramatic coincidence, Tamil Nadu’s political parties sympathetic to the Tamil Tigers were routed in the Lok Sabha elections Saturday as the Sri Lankan military dealt a crippling blow to the rebels, taking control of their last coastal belt.

As the Sri Lankan army announced “the total liberation of the island’s coastline from three decades of terror”, vote count in Puducherry and Tamil Nadu showed that all seven candidates of the PMK and three of the four MDMK candidates had lost.

The losers included MDMK’s passionately pro-Tiger chief Vaiko, who in 1989 made a dramatic secret trip to Sri Lanka’s north to meet Tamil Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The saving grace for politicians supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was the victory of Thol Thirumavalavan, leader of VCK, the small party that fielded two candidates in alliance with the ruling DMK.

The VCK, MDMK and PMK are the most vocal pro-LTTE forces in Tamil Nadu’s mainstream politics and were at the forefront of street protests in recent weeks, denouncing both Colombo and New Delhi for the deaths and the suffering of civilians in Sri Lanka’s onslaught against the Tamil Tigers.

Worse, the AIADMK of former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, who had surprised everyone by threatening to send the Indian Army to Sri Lanka if her alliance won most of Tamil Nadu’s 39 parliamentary seats, suffered a stunning blow winning only nine seats.

The PMK had only in March quit the Congress-led coalition and joined hands with the AIADMK. The PMK had declared that only the creation of a Tamil state would end Sri Lanka’s dragging conflict. Besides losing the six seats it contested in Tamil Nadu, it also lost the only seat in Puducherry.

Vaiko, who warned that “rivers of blood” would flow in Tamil Nadu if LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran got injured in Sri Lanka, was defeated by over 50,000 votes from Virudnagar constituency.

Tamil Nadu, where the LTTE once had sanctuaries and training camps, is separated from Sri Lanka by a narrow strip of sea.

In the run up to the ballot in Tamil Nadu, which voted May 13, pro-LTTE players sought to make Sri Lanka the dominant campaign theme. The LTTE even urged people to vote for those supporting its cause.

In the cacophony, the most attacks were reserved for the Congress and its president Sonia Gandhi, who was accused of conniving with Sri Lanka to crush the LTTE to avenge the 1991 killing, by a Tiger suicide bomber, of her husband and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

In the eventuality, the Congress did suffer but only marginally. It won three seats and was on the winning track in five. It had bagged 10 seats in 2004.

The DMK, which too was accused of doing nothing tangible to end the war in Sri Lanka despite being a key partner of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, could end up with a tally of 18 seats.

“The verdict is a vote against the LTTE, a vote for India’s Sri Lanka policy,” said K. Elangovan, a Chennai-based lawyer. A MDMK leader told IANS on the condition of anonymity: “The Sri Lankan issue did not resonate at all in rural areas. It impacted only in major towns.”

A Tamil Nadu police officer added: “We have always maintained that the Sri Lankan issue has ceased to sway the people of Tamil Nadu. Some people may be vocal about the LTTE, giving an impression that it is a mass issue. But it is not. These results have proved it again.”

The Sri Lankan government said Saturday that soldiers of its 58 Division had linked up with the 59 Division, freeing the last remaining coastal stretch under LTTE’s control. “The link up marks the total liberation of the island’s coastline from three decades of terror.”

Military officials said the LTTE was now left with less than one square kilometre area, and for the first time since the conflict began over a quarter century ago the rebels were without access to the sea.

Said an official from the Indian security establishment: “With today’s development in Sri Lanka, it can be safely said that the armed struggle of the LTTE has come to an end.”

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