PM Modi in Tamil Nadu: Show of political and regional aspirations

The ruling BJP led-NDA alliance launched their campaign for 17th Lok Sabha elections with less fanfare in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. What is its significance and what are the missing links that cropped up in a hectic day that was marked with political actions?

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The NDA coalition in Tamil Nadu has started their campaign with a formal launch along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The day chosen for such an occasion was a ‘No Moon Day’ (Amavasya), a sly reference to the legacy of Jayalalithaa, who took auspicious dates and times into account to launch any political tasks. Though she had asked ‘Whether it is Modi or lady?’ during the last poll, their personal relationship did not deteriorate. In fact, Modi visited her after becoming the PM on August 7, 2015.

That time, the meet seemed to indicate that both parties might enter into an alliance in 2016 assembly poll which was almost a year before she was convicted in the Disproportionate Assets case. Once again, Modi came to Chennai nearly after two and half months when the December Deluge struck the city. Therefore, the bond between the leaders reflected even after the AIADMK Supremo passed away unexpectedly in 2016. Hence the alliance has been treated by them as a natural one as it was echoed in the speeches of EPS and OPS before Modi. OPS in his speech specifically said that they have seen in person the friendship of both the leaders, so the alliance is a continuation of such a connection.

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The PMK stance

The PMK founder-leader Ramadoss outlined demands as it entered into the poll pact between the state ruling party and their party. He indicated that during the emergency, state rights were abrogated and never returned to them. Several state issues have been not yet been sorted out, so the alliance has been entered into resolve all of them, he said. He also said that he had handed over a memorandum to the PM to arrange the release of all the seven convicts of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

“Bringing the regional party PMK into the NDA fold is a smart decision as it has fairly a solid voter-base. It is also an advantage with seven Lok Sabha seats plus 1 Rajya Sabha seat.”

In his speech, Modi declared that the Chennai Central Railway station has to be renamed after the AIADMK founder and former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran. Earlier, he inaugurated a statue of the leader following the foundation laying ceremony of a few highway extension projects and dedicating LNG terminal in Ennore Port to the nation.

“Bharat Ratna MGR was regarded as an icon of respect and not only ruled hearts in cinema but also in the hearts of public,” Modi said. He also remembered that he visited MGR’s birth place while touring in Sri Lanka (he was born in Kandy while his father was serving under the British Raj in Sri Lanka).

He further attacked the DMK for its lack of political conviction to go with the BJP which dismissed their government twice in the past. He also said that the INC used article 356 nearly 100 times, especially 50 times by Indira Gandhi. He outlined all the actions to bring back fishermen from Sri Lanka and a priest from Afghanistan.

Modi mentioned about the defence corridor project which would create employment opportunities for youth. Modi echoed the words of Ramadoss by saying that regional aspirations should be honoured. He concluded his speech with a slogan of Jayalalithaa, “Nalai Namadhe; Napathum Namadhe” which means “Tomorrow is ours; all the forty (seats) is ours”.

DMDK made the day dramatic

DMDK under the actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth made the day dramatic by opening up parallel talks with both the Dravidian parties. Ex-DMK minister and treasurer Duraimurugan exposed that the party approached him for alliance once their district secretaries wished to ally with them. However, later the party leader and brother-in-law of Vijayakanth, Sudish clarified that they are with the AIADMK alliance and hoped to conclude the seat allocation within a day or two. He also expressed anticipating the participation of their leader in next poll meeting with Modi. It is said that he held two rounds of meetings with the Union Railways minister Piyush Goel. The second meeting was said to take place later in the day.

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The political calculation of the alliance was inclusive of all the victorious parties in 2014. AIADMK won 37 seats and the NDA won three including the Puducherry seat.

“Adding DMDK would be an ideal partnership because of its scattered voter base across the state. However, the notable absence in the alliance is the non-participation of any Islamic parties.”

Though there are two Dalit-dominant parties representing the North and the South of the state along with other OBC lead parties, the absence of Islamic party is a noteworthy aspect.

In his speech, OPS defended that alliance with the BJP is not against the secular values as “there was no significant violent incident with any Islamic subjects across the nation during the last five years”. He also reiterated that his party is committed in protecting the minorities as in the past.

The crowd gathered at the Kanchipuram district, the birth place of C N Annadurai, the doyen of Dravidian parties, was respectable against all speculations that TTV Dinakaran holds majority of cadres with him. Modi in his speech mentioned that the poet Kalidasa has illustrated the textile city as Nagareshu Kanchi (city of cities) but he did not mention about the leader in whose name the alliance major is christened with. But he was not alone as the regional and political aspirations of local partners’ surges against the past.