DMK has released a statement backing the demand.

Jayalalithaas googly on Rajiv case convicts Congress opposes BJP evasive
news Convicts Release Thursday, March 03, 2016 - 12:03

Close on the heels of the announcement of the DMK-Congress alliance and just days after Union Minister Prakash Javdekar hit out at the state government after meeting Vijayakanth, the Jayalalithaa government has thrown a googly at both the Congress and BJP by asking for the Centre’s opinion on releasing the Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts. While the BJP is evasive about the move, the Congress party has opposed this in Delhi.

Earlier in 2014, the Supreme Court had ruled that the state government does not have the authority to release the convicts without the approval of the Centre. Following this, and close to the upcoming polls, the government has now take the decision to remit their sentences and sought the opinion of the Centre.

The convicts are Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini – the ones whose death sentences were reduced to life imprisonment, and Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran who are under life imprisonment.

Just hours after the announcement by the state government, DMK leader Karunanidhi released a statement backing the demand, stating that the convicts had served "almost double life sentence" by "languishing" in jail for about 25 years.

"The seven persons languishing in jail for 25 years have been serving almost double life sentence. Further, their release last time was delayed due to the wrong approach of the Tamil Nadu government," he said.

This is likely to land the DMK-Congress alliance and the BJP in a dilemma.

For the BJP, whose ministers and MPs are busy whipping up nationalistic sentiments following the JNU controversy, the decision to release Rajiv case convicts will not augur well at the national level. However, a decision to not release them will not go down well in Tamil Nadu. On Thursday morning, when Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan was asked his stand on the TN government’s poser, he responded by saying an ‘appropriate’ decision will be taken at the right time.

For the Congress too, this is a tricky situation as they have always maintained that the convicts must not be released. The Congress has now moved an adjournment motion in Rajya Sabha over TN government’s move. Meanwhile speaking outside Parliament, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the decision was for the government to take and refused to elaborate further.

Signs of disagreement were showing on Wednesday.

Political analysts say that while this remains an emotional issue with some political capital, the timing of the move smacks of political opportunism. “This is an issue which should have been sorted out long back. The government is timing it with the assembly elections in an attempt to divert attention to other important issues,” says political observer Gnani Sankaran, adding that the release of the convicts remains a politically relevant matter.

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