Priyanka's meeting with Nalini a msg to LTTE?

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Chennai, Apr 20: Ms Priyanka Vadra's sensational meeting with her father Rajiv Gandhi's assassin Nalini Sriharan, has unwittingly brought to the fore yet another dimension with larger political implications.

Political circles feel that the ''hush-hush'' meeting that took place on March 19 at the Vellore central prison, where Nalini is lodged, was meant to send a subtle message to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The meeting was a symbolic event for the Tamil Tigers to ponder over shedding their residual hatred, they might have towards the Gandhi family, both political and legal circles feel.

Nalini, the ninth accused in the case and the only living person, who had accompanied the squad, which had assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on the night of May 21, 1991, had been sentenced to death.

But her death sentence was commuted to life, thanks to the humanitarian gesture by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, on whose recommendation, she got a reprieve.

Seventeen long years after the assassination of her father, Ms Priyanka Vadra met Nalini and termed the meeting as ''my way of coming to peace with violence and loss that I experienced.'' The meeting assumed greater significance as Nalini's husband Sriharan alias Murugan's strong links with the LTTE was well established.

''It is an extraordinary gesture on the part of Ms Priyanka Vadra and it is for the Tamil Tigers to reciprocate,'' a senior Congress leader in the state said on condition of anonymity.

The LTTE should now understand the magnanimity and generosity of the Gandhi family and they should shed the hatred towards the family, Congress leaders said. The LTTE's hatred towards the Gandhi family started in 1987, when Rajiv Gandhi played a major role in signing the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, which paved the way for Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), much to the disgruntlement of the Tigers.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the CBI, which probed the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, also had established how deep the Tigers' hatred was towards the Gandhi family after the IPKF landed in the Tamil areas in Sri Lanka.

It was against this backdrop, it was felt that there was a threat to the Gandhi family from the LTTE in the larger context of India's continued ''hands off'' policy in Sri Lanka's ethnic issue.

Hence, Mr Priyanka Vadra's visit, though not directly political, gave an impression that the Gandhi family wanted to permanently put an end to all bitterness of the past with the LTTE, Congress circles feel.

Significantly, the lid over Ms Priyanka Vadra's secret visit, was blown off when Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh advocated Rahul Gandhi's candidature for Prime Minister in the Lok Sabha elections due in 2009.

DMK Chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi also backed the suggestion and had said he would be happy if Rahul was elected as Prime Minister.

However, the Congress leaders, who were overwhelmed by Ms Priyanka Vadva's gesture, were clear that this itself would not change the Congress party's policy towards the LTTE, unless the latter gave up violence and came to the negotiation table to resolve the ethnic issue. ''It's now for the LTTE to pick up the cue and reciprocate,'' they feel.

Nalini's senior counsel S Duraisamy, who did not want the meeting between the two to go unrecorded, had deputed his junior to file an application under Right to Information and sought details of the meeting.

Mr Duraisamy, who had appeared for Nalini in the case, during the pre-trial procedure, said Ms Priyanka Vadra's meeting with Nalini has strengthened the repeated pleas of the defence to reinvestigate the 17-year-old case.

He claimed that Ms Priyanka Vadra's chose to meet Nalini as she doubted the very involvement of the LTTE in her father's assassination. The CBI had miserably failed in identifying the ''persons,'' who had helped the conspirators, he contended.

Meanwhile, taking advantage of Ms Priyanka Vadra's meeting, there were moves to file a petition in the Madras High Court, seeking the release of Nalini.

Nalini's family sources said she did not plead Ms Priyanka Vadra for clemency for her husband Murugan, who had been sentenced to death. His mercy petition is pending before the President.

There were reports that Murugan was unhappy with his wife for having agreed to meet Ms Priyanka Vadra and stopped talking to her, but prison authorities dismissed the reports as baseless.

UNI

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