The political dimension

Attempts to ferret Veerappan out of his lair have not been without some surprising moves on the part of the two state governments. Almost from the time he attained notoriety, there has been talk about the man's political connections.

In December 1992, after Veerappa Moily came to power at Karnataka, the Special Task Force (STF) was disbanded. While this act was criticised by Moily's political opponents, he defended the move saying that the police personnel were needed elsewhere in the state. Karnataka was one of the worst affected by the communal clashes that shook the nation after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Moily, however, set up the STF again soon after and by mid-1993, STF operations had touched an all-time high.

A few months after the disbanding of the STF in Karnataka, in March 1993, Jayalalitha's AIADMK (All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) government came under severe attack from the opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. Defending the government's seeming lack of enthusiasm in the hunt for Veerappan, Jayalalitha went on record saying that the reason for this was that Veerappan was no longer in the forests but in Mumbai (then called Bombay). On April 9, Veerappan's men blew up an STF convoy near the Palar bridge, killing 22 personnel.

In terms of seizure of smuggled sandalwood in Tamil Nadu, 523 tonnes were seized in the last year of the AIADMK rule, as compared to 151 tonnes in the first half-year of the DMK rule.