BJP using Katchatheevu issue only as a tool, will harm Tamils in Sri Lanka: P Chidambaram

PTI, Apr 6, 2024, 7:06 PM IST

BJP’s attempt to use the resolved Katchatheevu issue as a political tool in the forthcoming general elections will not work and it would only result in that party’s defeat at the hustings, senior Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram said on Saturday.

He accused BJP of using the Katchatheevu islet issue, resolved 50 years ago, for political mileage and sought to know why Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishankar did not contest from Tamil Nadu and raise this issue if they were so concerned about Katchatheevu or Tamils. ”If Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishankar claim they are Tamils, then let them contest in Tamil Nadu like Tamilisai Soundararajan, L Murugan and K Annamalai and raise the Katchatheevu issue during the elections. Why did they not contest? Why are they hiding behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi and raising the issue?” Chidambaram asked. Speaking to reporters here, the former Union Minister asked them to exercise caution while making statements on the subject as this would cause great harm to 35 lakh Tamils including 25 lakh Sri Lankan Tamils and 10 lakh Indian Tamils living in Lanka. The Central Ministers’ statements would only lead to confrontation between the Lankan government and the Tamils living in the island nation, he added.

Referring to the RTI reply issued by the MEA in 2015, Chidambaram said the reply stated that ”Katchatheevu island was neither acquired nor ceded and lies on the Sri Lankan side of the India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line.” Reminding that it was Narendra Modi who was the Prime Minister in 2015 when the RTI reply was issued, he opined that the ”closed issue should not be reopened.” Turning to other issues, he said Congress will formulate a common minimum programme and implement its poll manifesto, Nyay Patra, if the party comes to power at the Centre.

His party did not believe in ”bulldozer justice” but in federalism to which the BJP-led government at the Centre was opposed, he said and accused the Centre of reducing the states to the stature of regions – Palayakkarars, under a feudatory setup – only to mop up revenue.

”The BJP will not agree to anything on cooperative federalism as it is opposed to it. The BJP is following RSS teaching of reducing the states into Palayakkarars. They want only one government and one election and like in British rule they want the states to collect taxes,” Chidambaram said.

He said unemployment was a serious problem in the country and this was indicated in the latest report of the International Labour Organisation and the Institute of Human Development which stated that India’s youth accounted for 83 per cent of unemployed workforce, and 30 per cent of those who graduated from the Central institutes like the IITs were unemployed. ”How can the students pay back the education loan if they remain jobless,” the senior Congress leader asked. The Congress election campaign will hinge on its poll manifesto, he said and added ”we welcome comments on our manifesto. We will ensure full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, and make centrally-conducted qualifying examinations such as NEET and CUET optional, if elected to power,” he said.

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