Chennai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the home of opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi in Chennai on Monday, putting the national spotlight back on politics in Tamil Nadu.
Modi was in Chennai to preside over the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Tamil newspaper Dina Thanthi.
While the DMK and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) termed it a gesture of courtesy towards the ailing 93-year old veteran, analysts said the visit, coming a day before a special court decides on the date for a final judgment in the 2G spectrum cases, could be politically significant.
Former telecom minister A.Raja and DMK MP and Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, are among the accused in cases relating to the irregularities in the allocation of 2G telecom spectrum and licences. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India had estimated the total loss to the exchequer from the scam to be around Rs1.76 trillion.
The opposition DMK and the Congress are in alliance in Tamil Nadu, which has been in a state of political turmoil since the death of chief minister J. Jayalalithaa in December last year. Amid a tussle for leadership in the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the BJP at the centre has been accused of manoeuvring political affairs in the state.
Though Modi’s visit to Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence lasted no longer than 20 minutes, N. Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said that the BJP seems tired of the AIADMK’s factional feuds and is repositioning itself.
Recently, state dairy minister K.T. Rajendra Balaji, expressing confidence that chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami’s camp would be given the disputed “two leaves" party symbol—currently frozen by the Election Commission —said: “Narendra Modi is with us, nobody can shake our party… nobody can destroy AIADMK". The remark put the BJP on the back foot in Tamil Nadu.
With the BJP blamed for making allegedly opportunistic attempts at a back-door entry into the southern state, the public perception against the party has significantly increased in the last one year.
“One cannot see this as an attempt by the BJP to ally with the DMK in the Lok Sabha polls or if there is an early state assembly election. But for BJP, which has been gaining a negative image over the last few months in the state, this could be seen as an effort by Modi to attract some positive notion about his party in Tamil Nadu," said a senior DMK member on condition of anonymity.
Politics in Tamil Nadu has been bustling with activity over the last few months with movie actors like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth showing an interest in mainstream politics.
Kamal, who is likely to announce a political party soon, will launch a mobile app for his fans on his 63rd birthday on Tuesday. His friend and colleague Rajinikanth has been testing the political waters in the last few months.
Earlier in the day, speaking at the 75th anniversary celebrations of Dina Thanthi, Modi said: “Editorial freedom must be used wisely, in public interest. Equally so, the freedom to write, and to decide what is to be written, does not include the freedom to be ‘less than accurate,’ or ‘factually incorrect’."
He also assured all assistance to Tamil Nadu as it tackles the fallout of the recent heavy downpour in the capital and some districts, including Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur.