Ire over an assessment

Print edition : April 25, 1998

AIADMK leader Jayalalitha has had more reasons than one to be angry with the Bharatiya Janata Party in the past fortnight. A Central team consisting of two officials from the Home Ministry, a Ministry headed by senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, gave a clean chit to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Government in Tamil Nadu on April 16, saying that "the overall law and order situation... had improved as a result of the steps taken" by the State Government. This flew in the face of claims by Jayalalitha, who had been demanding that the Goverment led by M. Karunanidhi should be dismissed because law and order had broken down in the State.

Jayalalitha reacted by saying that it was "ludicrous that the Special Secretary in the Union Home Ministry Ashok Kumar should have given a good certificate to the law and order situation in Tamil Nadu after driving straight from the airport to the Secretariat, and meeting only the Chief Minister and officials loyal to him." In a strongly-worded statement, she alleged that the members of the team had not stepped out of the Secretariat before preparing the report. She said: "It was laughable that they gave a good certificate, accepting as biblical truth what the Chief Minister and officials close to him told them." She demanded that the Union Home Secretary be sent to Tamil Nadu to assess the situation.

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Vaiko, Jayalalitha's alliance partner, said that the Central team's remarks were "unwarranted" and that it should have briefed the Union Home Minister before meeting reporters.

Home Minister Advani later expressed his displeasure over Ashok Kumar's observations. He said that the official had erred in sharing his views with the media in Chennai before briefing him, the Minister. The team's report, he said, would be only one of the inputs to help the Centre form a view of the situation in Tamil Nadu. Advani agreed that the law and order situation in Tamil Nadu was satisfactory in the "conventional" sense, as found by the team, though the team's mission was not to make an assessment of that kind. He expressed his willingness to consider Jayalalitha's suggestion to send another team headed by the Home Secretary on the same mission.

Home Ministry sources said in New Delhi that the team's mission was to assess the growth of subversive forces in the State and evaluate the growth of anti-national elements, in the background of the bomb blasts in Coimbatore and the killing of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad leader K.R. Paramasivan in Madurai.

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