Lok Sabha elections | Katchatheevu issue unlikely to have electoral impact in Tamil Nadu

The controversy has persisted for decades, but the Ramanathapuram LS constituency near which the island is situated has largely supported candidates belonging to the DMK or the Congress or those with backing of either of the parties

April 01, 2024 09:06 pm | Updated April 02, 2024 09:35 am IST - Chennai

A view of the Katchatheevu island.

A view of the Katchatheevu island. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Katchatheevu, a barren islet about 14 nautical miles off Rameswaram in Ramanathapuram district, refuses to die as a subject of political discourse even though nearly 50 years have lapsed since India and Sri Lanka signed a pact to demarcate the maritime boundary line.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked up a controversy over Katchatheevu, a few weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha election in Tamil Nadu. Citing a report in a daily and posting it on “X” (formerly Twitter), he said: “Eye-opening and startling! New facts reveal how Congress callously gave away Katchatheevu...”

Yet, the utility of Katchatheevu as an electoral issue is doubtful, if one goes by the results of Lok Sabha elections in the Ramanathapuram constituency since 1977.

Of the 12 elections held so far, only twice (1998 and 2014) did the constituency return candidates who were not backed by the DMK and the Congress, both of which are now the targets of attack by their adversaries. In 1974, the Congress was in power at the Centre and the DMK in the State. On all other occasions, the winners either belonged to the DMK or the Congress or enjoyed the backing of either of the parties. In 2019, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) bagged the constituency, as a part of the front that had the DMK and Congress. Even now, the IUML is seeking re-election with the support of the two parties.

Also Read: Lok Sabha elections 2024 LIVE updates - April 2

However, the AIADMK’s senior leader, A. Anwhar Raajhaa, who represented Ramanathapuram during 2014-2019, feels it is his party that will stand to benefit under the present circumstances. “When it was decided in 1974 that Katchatheevu was a part of Sri Lanka, the Congress and the DMK were the ruling parties. Besides, the BJP, which has been in power for 10 years, did not do anything to get it back,” he points out. He adds it was his party’s chief and former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa who launched a “genuine legal battle” for retrieval of the islet.

Emphasising that Katchatheevu has never caused any electoral impact, A. Gopanna, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee vice-president, says this time too, there will be no difference. “People of the State would not believe Mr. Modi’s words, as it is well known that he is making his point for the sake of electoral gains. Besides, there is no relationship between the islet and fishery dispute, as Sri Lanka is richer in marine resources than us,” he asserts.

But, C.R. Kesavan, national spokesperson of the BJP, refers to the implications of the issue, by contending that the matter “exposes the betrayal” of the DMK-Congress combine. Pointing out that the two parties were in power at that time, he describes the ceding of the islet as a “Shakuni-like match-fixing” by the two parties to give away this land, which is of “strategic national interest to India”.

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