Congress, DMK differ on Perarivalan’s release

Tamil Nadu CM Stalin hails verdict; Congress leader Surjewala says long jail term not a criterion for release

Updated - May 18, 2022 10:59 pm IST

Published - May 18, 2022 10:29 pm IST

DMK president M.K. Stalin with Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.S. Alagiri. File

DMK president M.K. Stalin with Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.S. Alagiri. File | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

The Supreme Court order to release Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A.G. Perarivalan has led to differences between the Congress and one of its closest allies, the DMK. On a day Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M.K. Stalin hailed the verdict, the Congress criticised the BJP for creating the necessary situation that led to the top court’s decision to release a “terrorist” held for the “murderous attack and assassination” of the former Prime Minister..

In a starkly contrasting stand, Mr. Stalin said Perarivalan had spent 32 years in prison and lost his youth behind bars, was finally able to smell freedom. “I convey my wishes to him and welcome him.” He also lauded the efforts of Perarivalan’s mother Arputhammal for securing his release after a long battle.

The Congress for now remains mum on the DMK’s divergent stand. At a press conference in Delhi, Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala directed his attack solely at the BJP. He sidestepped a pointed question on whether the Congress would break the alliance because of the differences in views. “Everybody is entitled to their opinion,” he said.

Mr. Surjewala also dismissed the argument that Periarvalan had already spent 32 years in prison. “If that is the criteria, then we should perhaps release all those serving a life sentence, which includes many of our Tamil brothers and sisters too, why only release the murderers of Rajiv Gandhi? Why don’t we bring a change in rule and lay down a fixed term for a life sentence?” he said. He further said that he did not want to get into a debate about what anyone said, or what the opinion of a particular party was or “who is in alliance with us and who isn’t”.

The disparate stand comes on the heels of Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s comment that regional parties cannot fight the battle of ideology. Though there were adverse reactions from Congress allies the Shiv Sena and the RJD, the DMK did not speak out.

The DMK also stood by the Congress when its own status as the lead Opposition party is under threat. On February 28 this year, Mr. Gandhi was invited to the launch of Mr. Stalin’s autobiography Ungalil Oruvan. There was clear political message in extending the invitation, since it came barely two weeks after Trinamool Congress president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reached out to Mr. Stalin and Telangana CM K. Chandrashekhar Rao to forge a front of regional parties against the BJP.

More recently, the DMK has reserved one of the four Rajya Sabha seats to the Congress in the upcoming elections. This was the arrangement said to have been agreed to by both parties ahead of the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly election. The Congress was demanding 30 Assembly seats then, but the DMK conceded only 25. In lieu of the five Assembly seats, they agreed to five one Rajya Sabha seat.

Speaking to The Hindu, a DMK MP in Delhi said allies need not concur with each other on every issue and an occasional difference of opinion would not dent the alliance. The Congress, however, does not sound so hopeful. “For the last many months now, the DMK has been soft-pedalling on this issue. It definitely creates a friction between us. However, so far, we haven’t reached a breaking point,” a Congress MP from Tamil Nadu said.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.