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WAS the removal of Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi's name from the "list of suspects" in the Action Taken Report (ATR) of the Jain Commission an attempt to build bridges with the DMK at a time when Jayalalitha seemed ready to pull the rug? Consider the facts. When the first draft of the ATR was ready for submission, disclose Home Ministry sources, it was felt that the bureaucrats had not done a good job and pressure from the AIADMK through Union ministers R. Kumaramangalam and V. Ramamurthy ensured that Karu-nanidhi's name was put on the list with the knowledge of the "highest authority in the ministry."
But then Jayalalitha went ballistic and the BJP feared the worst. In a letter written to DMK MP Murasoli Maran on August 19, Advani said Karunanidhi's name had been included "inadvertently". The DMK, naturally, went to town with the letter and the "lapse" was even described as a "clerical error". The BJP remained nice and quiet while it was left to Amma to attack the DMK's attempts to give itself a clean chit as a "Himalayan fraud". But as the week went on and Jayalalitha seemed to pull back from the brink once again, the BJP quickly changed tack. It was put out by leaders like Kumaramangalam—who had pushed hard for the inclusion of Karunanidhi's name in the list—that the Tamil Nadu CM would still be interrogated. That it was all OK.
"All this means nothing. He is going to be inter rogated by the multi-disciplinary monitoring agency for the manner in which the DMK government encouraged the LTTE in the pre-assassination-post-Accord period," says Kumaramangalam. But the "clerical error" theory finds few takers. Admits a senior BJP functionary: "Karunanidhi's name was included after intense pressure. How can the Home Ministry make an error after that?"
But the attempt to keep a slightly calmer Jayalalitha on board less than a week later by removing Enforcement Directorate counsel in Chennai, K. Kumar, was even more blatant. This time round, the Finance Ministry which issued the orders removing Kumar—an ED counsel for the past 14 years—did not bother to cite any reasons, however frivolous.