New Delhi: After Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the chief of the DMK at his home in Chennai, the political stock of the regional party in Tamil Nadu is soaring. "It creates a good talking point in Tamil Nadu," said a BJP source who did not want to be identified, adding that "the PM's invitation was issued to mitigate the atmosphere of animosity."
- PM visited M Karunanidhi, 93, at Chennai home yesterday
- Visit was planned just hours before that: BJP sources
- PM's outreach likely to unnerve Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK
The reference was to Mr Modi inviting the DMK's top boss, 93-year-old M Karunanidhi, who has been unwell for several years, to consider recuperating at the Prime Minister's residence in Delhi.
The development adds momentum to the talk of a changing political climate in Tamil Nadu, where the PM's party has been liaising with the ruling AIADMK in what's been perceived as the early stages of an alliance.
The DMK is the main opposition party. The PM's house call was planned just hours before he visited Chennai yesterday to attend a vernacular newspaper's 75th anniversary and the wedding of a bureaucrat who worked in his office.
As soon as Mr Modi's staff conveyed his desire to meet Mr Karunanidhi, the DMK leader's son and political heir, MK Stalin, cut short a trip to the Middle East and headed home.
Mr Stalin helped translate Mr Modi's greetings for his father, said sources in the Prime Minister's party. Mr Modi was photographed leaning down affectionately towards Mr Karunanidhi, who uses a wheelchair.
The warmth exhibited by the PM comes as senior DMK leaders including former Telecom Minister A Raja and Mr Karunanidhi's daughter, M Kanimozhi, await a court verdict on whether they conspired in India's largest-ever telecom scam. If they are acquitted, the party's potential as an ally could escalate overnight.
The DMK has denied that its membership of a national anti-BJP front of 18 opposition parties will be reconsidered after the PM's outreach. It will participate tomorrow in protests against Mr Modi for his sudden decision to cancel high-denomination notes exactly one year ago. Refuting reports that it has dropped out of the rallies for tomorrow, the DMK said that it has cancelled protests in only those areas that are flooded after relentless heavy rain in Tamil Nadu over the last few days.
The DMK was a part of the national government headed by BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee; their alliance ended in 2004. Mr Modi's foray into warmer ties with the party scores an important point for the BJP by illustrating to the AIADMK that its patience in forming a partnership is limited and that it is willing to look at alternatives. The AIADMK has been fissured into competing camps after December's death of its powerful leader J Jayalalithaa. As it struggles to establish a new equilibrium, its public approval has been steadily declining. Two mega film stars, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, have announced plans to join politics. Mr Haasan has made it clear that he sees the BJP as an opponent; Rajinikanth has yet to reveal what affiliation he will forge, if any; he met briefly with the PM yesterday at the newspaper event.
The AIADMK's top leadership also met with PM Modi for a quick conferral.