As the Centre gets ready to deal with a post Jayalalithaa government in Tamil Nadu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had some comforting words for Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam.
“Any time, any issue, we are there. You can rely on us,” the Prime Minister told Mr. Panneerselvam as he left Rajaji Hall after paying homage to Jayalalithaa. Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, who was present when Mr. Modi spoke to the Chief Minister in Chennai, told The Hindu that it reflected the Centre’s, indeed the BJP’s, attitude towards the AIADMK, which was “ideologically near” to his party.
The Centre’s obliging stance was evident from the fact that on Tuesday morning, as Jayalalithaa’s body lay in state at Rajaji Hall, the State government realised that there was no gun carriage for the funeral. “I was there since early morning Tuesday and found that the administration was in a quandary. There was a gun carriage in Coimbatore, but it would take six hours to reach [Chennai], another in Hyderabad which would take longer. Finally, I made a call to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who got one flown down to Chennai on a special flight. It was 11.30 a.m. by the time that flight took off,” Mr. Naidu said.
“The media may have seen the picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi consoling Ms. Sasikala [Natarajan, a confidante of Jayalalithaa] by placing his hand on her head, but he also told the Chief Minister that he could rely on the Central government for any help,” Mr. Naidu said. He termed the speculation on the BJP’s assessment of the state of political play in Tamil Nadu “unseemly, being so close to Jayalalithaa’s funeral,” but added that “we [the BJP] have always had good relations with the AIADMK.”
Mr. Naidu revealed that the BJP had proposed an alliance with the AIADMK ahead of the recent Assembly polls. “Jayalalithaa had said a ruling party would face a degree of anti-incumbency while facing polls, and it was a close fight. She said that if she aligned with us, it might come in the way of [her] getting the support of certain groups. She asked me to convey this message to Mr. Modi,” he said. “On the other hand, she made sure that despite her party’s opposition to the Goods and Services Tax Bill, the AIADMK didn’t stand in the way of the Bill being cleared. The party walked out before voting,” he said.
“As of now, there are no elections in Tamil Nadu or even a realignment of political forces, so the question does not arise. The AIADMK has been extending issue-based support to us till now. We expect that to continue,” he said.
Asked whether the Centre was anxious about the internal equations in the AIADMK because of the presidential election next year, Mr. Naidu said: “Again, this is too early.” “We desire broad consensus in the presidential polls,” he said. It is to be seen whether this stance may change in the coming days.