Union Home Minister and top BJP leader Amit Shah got a grand welcome in Chennai this afternoon as he get out of his vehicle and made an unscheduled walk on the busy road outside the airport to greet supporters, after he landed in the Tamil Nadu capital for a two-day visit. Mr Shah will address party workers as well as give his strategy to the state BJP to crack the politically elusive state ahead of next year's assembly election.
He will also dedicate a new reservoir outside Chennai and lay the foundation stone for projects worth Rs. 67,000 crore, including the second phase of Chennai Metro.
The visit comes amid signs of strains in the ties between the BJP and Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK, its ally.
Breaking protocol, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami went to receive Mr Shah at the airport. His deputy O Panneerselvam, senior cabinet members and BJP state chief L Murugan were also among those who received Amit Shah at the airport.
While sources in the BJP said they are confident that the alliance with the AIADMK will continue, the regional party sees no political significance in Mr Shah's visit. AIADMK sources said they see it a government function.
Two issues that became flashpoints in the BJP-AIADMK ties recently were the "Vetri Vel Yatra" and the BJP using the AIADMK's iconic founder MG Ramachandran or "MGR" alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a campaign video.
The BJP's "Vetri Vel Yatra", planned from November 6 to December 6, was conceptualised in honour of Lord Muruga known for his "Vel" or spear.
When the AIADMK government banned the yatra over Covid worries, the BJP asserted its right to hold the event. The BJP said its rally - an annual exercise - was against what it called the anti-Hindu agenda of some parties.
Soon after, the AIADMK was reportedly upset when the BJP used MGR's clip in a campaign video featuring PM Modi.
Tamil Nadu will vote for a new government in less than six months. This will be the first state election after the death of the tallest leaders of the two main rival parties - J Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK and M Karunanidhi of the DMK - and the BJP senses an opportunity to try and create its space in a major state in the southern part of the country, where the ruling party largely remains a minor player except in Karnataka.
The AIADMK is considered by the BJP as a friendly party and it has helped the government push legislation through the Rajya Sabha in parliament, where the opposition has an upper hand.
The AIADMK-BJP alliance suffered a huge defeat in Tamil Nadu in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
(With inputs from PTI)