State Ministers sharing dais with Union Cabinet members has become a common sight
Nine months ago, Chief Minister and the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Jayalalithaa chose to skip the inauguration of the Domestic Terminal II of the Chennai airport, the event of which saw the participation of Vice-President Hamid Ansari and Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh.
The Chief Minister had attributed her decision to the failure of the Centre to respond to her request that it be named after former Chief Minister and the AIADMK founder M.G. Ramachandran.
Even as she remains critical of the Union government on a host of issues, a different trend appears to be emerging with two of her Ministers sharing dais with Union Ministers at official functions in the last few weeks.
In mid-September, along with Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, State Cooperation Minister and AIADMK Madurai district secretary ‘Sellur’ K. Raju took part in the inauguration of Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Marketing Yard near Madurai.
The yard has been developed through public-private partnership with the Union government contributing a major portion of the project cost.
On Sunday last, State Agriculture Minister and Secretary of the AIADMK’s Coimbatore Rural wing S. Damodaran was present at an event to mark the inauguration of Spices Park in Sivaganga, a constituency represented by Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. Among those who participated in the function were Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma and Mr Chidambaram himself.
Mr. Damodaran’s presence was a surprise to many as only five days earlier Ms. Jayalalithaa, in her letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of development index for States, decried the attempt of the Union Finance Ministry to prejudice and undermine the work of the 14 Finance Commission.
Mr. Damodaran and Mr. Raju told The Hindu that it was on the advice of their leader and the Chief Minister that they participated in the functions.
“The Spices Park event related to my department. The State government had given land,” the State Agriculture Minister explained.
Mr. Raju offered a similar rationale for his participation as the Foodgrains Marketing Yard concerned his department – Cooperation.
“As the yard has come up in my district, I, as the local Minister, had to participate.” He added that one could use such a platform to highlight several achievements of the State government.
The Cooperation Minister also referred to Food Minister R. Kamaraj launching the Chemmozhi Express at a function in Mannargudi in June. Interestingly, the Assembly constituency of Mannargudi is represented by T. R. B. Rajaa, son of former Union Minister T.R. Baalu.
In December last, the Chief Minister herself flagged off the services of two Duronto express trains at Chennai.
A senior leader of the AIADMK, who wishes to remain anonymous, sees no political importance behind the State Ministers taking part in official functions organised by the Centre.
“So long as the State government’s work and involvement in projects, jointly executed by the Union and State governments, are recognised and respected, there is nothing wrong in their participation,” he said.
Asked whether the development was an indication of the AIADMK warming up to the Union government, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president B.S. Gnanadesikan replied that this was a welcome sign.
Both the Central and State governments had to work together for implementation of projects to accelerate infrastructure development of the State.