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Congress Party in crisis session backs ceasefire in Lanka

(April 23, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) This statement will be issued by the government on Thursday after a late night high level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to shuffle the position to balance India's larger stakes in Sri Lanka with domestic political compulsions. Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee was called all the way from his constituency in Jangipur in West Bengal to participate in the urgent brainstorming.

This followed surrender of two leading Tigers —Daya Master and George — to Sri Lankan army and the decision of the government there to send over its emissary, Basil Rajapakse, to brief New Delhi of the developments.

The stage for a recalibration was set by Congress, worried about the fallout of the crisis for its prospects in Tamil Nadu, a state that it had swept in the last polls. The party called for a ceasefire — the first time in as many words — to help resolve the crisis.

The PM and Mukherjee were scheduled to hold talks with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi who, party sources said, was monitoring the unfolding situation in Sri Lanka.

India will also take a view on whether to invite Rajapakse's emissary over for talks on the situation, in an attempt to show that India was fully engaged with the crisis.

The burst of activities in Congress and the government coincided with indications that the situation in Sri Lanka had muscled its way on Tamil Nadu's electoral stage.

On day of fast-paced developments, Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi called a bandh in the state on Thursday, asking all to join in the show of solidarity with the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The call was rebuffed by Jayalalitha, AIADMK boss and leader of the combination arrayed against the Congress-DMK alliance, with the jibe that instead of taking steps to enforce a ceasefire, the TN chief minister was engaging in gimmicks.

The joust was seen as reflecting the recognition among parties of the emotive potential of the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.

In New Delhi, Congress made its sympathies for the beleaguered Tamils conspicuous by getting absorbed in the issue. Sonia, who, according to party sources skipped a poll event in Samastipur on Tuesday to track the events in Sri Lanka, was in charge.

She was the goad for the shift in the position of Congress, which is likely to be reflected in the government's statement expected on Thursday. "Congress calls upon the Sri Lankan government to ensure, in every possible way, the safety and security of Tamil-speaking population, especially in the areas where its security forces are battling the LTTE," said the party while calling for the cease fire "so that the humanitarian crisis can be resolved in a demonstrable way".

The tone contrasted sharply with Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi's assertion on Monday that Congress had defied presure from parties from Tamil Nadu to interfere with Sri Lanka's offensive against LTTE.

Congress is likely to join Thursday's Tamil Nadu bandh.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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