Chennai: A change of colour on a Tamil Nadu government campaign is being read by many as a not-too-subtle hint that the ruling AIADMK is cosying up to the BJP.
The state's new boards for a campaign against dengue have a saffron base colour, unlike the ruling party's signature green. The opposition DMK calls it a politically-loaded move to project AIADMK's deepening ties with the BJP.
Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam's meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi today served to reinforce their accusations.
Mr Panneerselvam or OPS called the meeting in Delhi a "courtesy call". He told NDTV that on his agenda was to seek extra coal for power plants in Tamil Nadu, and also get financial help for the state. "No political issues were discussed with the PM," he said after the meeting.
But back home, saffron hoardings are a red flag for the party's critics, especially rival DMK. Green was former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's favourite colour and, as the ruling party's official colour, the main backdrop for state government campaigns.
"The AIADMK has surrendered to the BJP and has sold the state," said DMK's MK Stalin.
Chief Minister E Palaniswamy "EPS" has dismissed the opposition criticism. "There is no surrender to the BJP. We work cordially with the Centre for Tamil Nadu's development," he told reporters recently.
Though talk about the AIADMK joining forces with the BJP has been circulating for months, the party was not part of PM Modi's mega cabinet reshuffle last month. It said it has yet to join the BJP-led coalition or announce any formal alliance.
Sources say that EPS and his deputy OPS, who reunited after a feud that erupted in the aftermath of Jayalalithaa's death, have not discussed a change in their relationship with the BJP even though it is believed to have a role in the merger talks.
The PM had met with the leaders of both factions, telegraphing the BJP's desire to end divisions within the regional party it believes can help it gain some ground in Tamil Nadu and also in the Rajya Sabha, where it is in a minority.
The state government insists that the colour of its anti-dengue boards are "not saffron but red", to catch people's attention easily.
"It is not saffron, it is red, which is aimed at creating awareness about dengue. I think those who see it as saffron are suffering from an eye problem. They should visit an ophthalmologist," state minister D Jayakumar has said.