Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “courtesy call” on the convalescing DMK patriarch Karunanidhi has caught many by surprise. Though the parliamentary elections are more than sixteen months away and assembly elections are not around the corner, the sudden meeting of Modi and Karunanidhi has given rise to various speculations.
Of course both the DMK and the BJP continue to maintain that it was just a gesture of respect and there is nothing political to it, but not many would buy the story. People know quite well that Modi is no reincarnation of Mother Teresa to show care and compassion to people, unless there is something in it for him. When more than 100 children died due to lack of oxygen in BJP ruled UP, Modi did not utter a single word in condolence, it must be remembered.
The late Selvi Jayalalitha, had thrice participated in the swearing-in of Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat. She had done so when he triumphed in the elections held after the ghastly riots of 2002, at a time when Modi was almost a political pariah for most. Still he would not bother to call on her when she was under treatment in the Apollo Hospitals, for as many as 75 days, whereas Rahul Gandhi did, though the Congress was an ally of the DMK. Such is the kindness of Modi.
Such being the case, why would he make a dash to Gopalapuram when it had not been part of the planned itinerary at all?
Again when he had sought to project himself as an uncompromising crusader against corruption during the Lok Sabha election campaign and to this day keeps inveighing against the Congress on that score, it is indeed intriguing that he chose to visit Karunanidhi when the verdict in the 2-G trial is just round the corner – he should have known among his hosts would be Karunandihi’s daughter Kanimozhi, one of the accused in 2G.
Thus if he risks sullying his “image,” clearly it should be because he is playing a high-stakes game. We know electoral alliances are never formed overnight. Many tentative steps are taken, bridge is built, talks are held secretly and then when everything works out to the satisfaction of all concerned, the deal is sealed.
It might look as if this writer is jumping the gun in predicting a future alliance between the DMK and the BJP. After all the DMK has stuck to the Congress-led front since 2004, barring a brief period. It has has been stridently critical of the BJP on various counts.
Even after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, the DMK has continued with its tirades – it has mostly toed the line of the Congress in its criticism of the Modi government, be it NEET, GAIL, demonetization, GST or any other policies. For his part DMK’s working president Stalin has not minced words in denouncing EPS as a puppet in the hands of a scheming parivaar. Still Modi comes a-calling. What is cooking then?
We would not be too very surprised if we pause to take a look at the “amorality” of DMK’s ways – chances of victory, share in power, dictating its decisions and not scruples of any kind.
It has been part of the union government under V P Singh, Deve Gowda, IK.Gujral, A.B.Vajpayee and of course for two full terms of Manmohan Singh. It can swing from one end of the spectrum to another with ease, and without squirming one bit. None is an untouchable for it, not even the BJP, in the memorable words of the late Murasoli Maran, widely accredited as the architect of the alliance during the Vajpayee days.
When Gujarat was burning in 2002, DMK President Karunanidhi brushed it aside as a minor law and order problem in one state. Hence taking into account the declining fortunes of the Congress these days, the DMK might not be averse towards an alliance with the BJP again.
It must be remembered that the party has lost three consecutive elections and most of the cadres are feeling frustrated. The DMK is desperate for power and would go all out to boost the morale of its cadres. It is natural then for the high command to keep its options open.
The primary aim of the DMK is to dislodge the state government run by Edappadi Palanisamy. Though the DMK has filed a slew of petitions in the Madras High Court challenging Speaker’s various decisions, Stalin is well aware that a decision in this regard is not going to come anytime soon.
The ministers of Edappadi Palanisamy government have become so emboldened that they claim privately that this government is going to last its full term with the blessings of the “all powerful Modi.” Indeed one minister went to the extent of declaring in a public meeting that “Modi will take care of all problems of the AIADMK government and no one could do anything to the government.” Many ministerial rebuttals of Stalin’s criticisms are indecent and in bad taste. Stalin is not given the respect due to a major opposition leader.
Such being the case, he would definitely want Edappadi Palanisamy and his Ministers to be kept in check and would love to use Modi’s visit to send a message to the state government.
As it happens the Edappadi camp is rattled. Edappadi Palanisamy’s man Friday, state intelligence IG K.N.Sathyamurthy, who takes most of the decisions for the Chief Minister, didn’t have a clue of the impending rendezvous.
Mediapersons were surprised to find security rather lax as they wended their way to Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence, it may be noted here. Only on Sunday morning corporation employees were draining water around Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence, owing to the impending Modi’s visit at 12 PM.
The Chief Minister was alerted to the “sudden change in PM’s plans” only a couple of hours earlier, it is said, and predictably he was furious that he had been kept in the dark.
Though the Indian Express has reported that Stalin’s son in law Sabareesan was in regular touch with Amit Shah and had facilitated this meeting, sources inside the DMK affirmed that the BJP’s state leadership had to get in touch with Stalin when he was in Dubai to get his nod. Of course the rising son was delighted, cut short his visit and rushed back to Chennai.
So the ice has been broken and the first tentative steps taken, but the DMK is putting up a brave face, as if nothing much has changed. It says it is going ahead with the Black Day demonstrations on the first anniversary of demonetization. The DMK is staging agitations throughout the state, barring the eight rain-affected districts.
DMK spokesperson, Saravanan who spoke in this regard said, “There is no political agenda to the visit made by Modi. We appreciate the magnanimous gesture of visiting a political rival who has opposed the politics and ideas of his party. It is heartening to us that the PM has visited our recuperating leader. But it’s an apolitical meeting. DMK remains committed and steadfast in its principles and ideologies.”
However, senior journalist R.Mani differed. “The visit itself is a political message. A person like Modi will not move an inch forward unless the move will bring him thousands of votes.”
Political analysts say that Modi’s visit could also be a warning to Edappadi camp that if they failed to get their act together and opt for a patch up with TTV Dinakaran, Modi is ready to drop them like a hot potato. With the growing popularity of TTV Dinakaran among cadres, Modi and Amit Shah would certainly feel that a divided AIADMK with a depleted vote bank would not help their future plans for Tamil Nadu.
Another senior correspondent had a different take. He said, “The BJP and DMK may claim it’s a courtesy call but there is definitely more to it than what meets the eye. After Jaya’s demise the BJP’s has intensified it’s plan to gain foot hold in Tamil Nadu. In a way BJP is the only reason for the political turmoil that Tamil Nadu has been witnessing for a year now.
The BJP’s strategy for Tamil Nadu seems to be failing one after the other. From engineering OPS revolt against Sasikala to ensuring merger between OPS and EPS factions, the BJP has only made things difficult for itself. The BJP might have thought that the party’s active intervention into the affairs of Tamil Nadu would yeild results, but the fact of the matter is that it has resulted in massive aversion against the BJP.
It also appears that that BJP has realised that by aligning with the EPS & OPS factions in the upcoming general elections, its only going to affect the saffron party’s prospects. The mood in Tamil Nadu is against AIADMK and the same treatment will be accorded to those who align with AIADMK.”
It is true that the BJP’s plans for Tamil Nadu are failing. The BJP President Amit Shah’s visit scheduled in August was cancelled without assigning any reason and he has not turned up in the state so far.
The correspondent further added. “With battle for Gujarat getting tougher and the ghost of Demonization – GST haunting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it appears that 2019 is not going to be cake walk for the BJP as it thought earlier. BJP’s failures in governance has given a ray of hope for the Congress. The party is slowly making a comeback & it’s capturing the imagination of the common man. The perception is slowly changing and the BJP government at the Center is at the receiving end.
Modi’s strategy to remain in power has been to ensure that there is no strong opposition in any part of this country. It been ensured in North India & now the plan has shifted to the South. DMK is the biggest ally of the Congress in Tamil Nadu and with yesterday’s visit to DMK Chief Karunanidhi’s house Narendra Modi has set the cat among pigeons. BJP wants to win maximum Lok Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu & by aligning with AIADMK forget about winning, the BJP can’t even retain its solitary MP seat in Tamil Nadu.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has officially knocked the doors of DMK. This visit by Modi will ease the tension prevailing between both parties in the State. BJP’s desperation to win 2019 polls is palpable and BJP will like to gain out of every deal that it strikes with its regional partners. BJP may try to align with DMK for the upcoming polls but if the DMK reciprocates then it’s nothing short of a Political suicide.”
But there is still a long way to go. The Congress seems to be rejuvenated under a transformed Rahul Gandhi. Its campaign in Gujarat is vibrant and gaining momentum every day. For the first time since 2014, the BJP is in jitters to face an election and the actions and speeches of its leaders fail to inspire much confidence.
The fortunes of the BJP and its ability to draw fresh allies will depend on the outcome of the Gujarat elections. Gujarat being Modi’s home state and a prestigious one for him personally, as of now all eyes are in Gujarat.
If the BJP receives a major setback in Gujarat, we can safely say the countdown for 2019 has begun. And the DMK would certainly consider Congress a safer bet and treat BJP as a liability.