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Modi meeting DMK patriarch Karunanidhi: BJP looking for neutral ground in Tamil Nadu?

What is the political significance of Modi's meeting with Karunanidhi? Basically, it seems to be an effort to build a neutral image for the national party in Tamil Nadu.

Written by Arun Janardhanan |
Updated: November 6, 2017 3:20:59 pm
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting DMK patriarch Karunanidhi in Chennai. (Source: PMO/Twitter)

Even if there are no concrete developments on the ground, as key disputes are pending before the courts and the Election Commission of India, political turmoil continues in Tamil Nadu. The visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chennai for a media event on Sunday, and his decision to meet DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi on Monday adds another dimension to an already confused state of affairs.

According to DMK sources, soon after Modi conveyed his wish to visit the veteran leader at his home in Chennai, M K Stalin, DMK working president and his son, made arrangements to fly back to Chennai from Dubai, in the early hours of Monday to receive the PM.

What is the political significance of Modi’s meeting with Karunanidhi? Basically, it seems to be an effort to build a neutral image for the national party in Tamil Nadu. A top party source in Chennai said the BJP doesn’t want to face a defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in TN. “We cannot afford to take on the negativity and failures of AIADMK government. The party does not want to be associated too openly or closely with the AIADMK. So beyond a courtesy visit, ‘his meeting with Karunanidhi and Stalin will definitely help us to distance ourselves from the AIADMK in the Tamil Nadu crisis,” the source said.

Following many ups and downs in the ruling AIADMK’s politics since J Jayalalithaa’s death last December, the national party has reportedly decided to go slow with regard to the AIADMK crisis. Allegations that the BJP has been meddling in the internal affairs of the ruling party, supporting different factions within it, hasn’t gone down well in the state: if the BJP hoped to gain from going after V V Sasikala and her ‘Mannargudi Family’ by using its authority at the Centre, it hasn’t happened so far.

It appears to have miscalculated with no tangible political benefits accruing to it in the last year. the public perception is that the BJP is too deeply involved in the affairs of the AIADMK, so much so that some AIADMK leaders have publicly projected Modi as the leader of the party, embarrassing the BJP. One state minister, K T Rajendra Balaji, said recently: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is with us, nobody can shake our party… nobody can destroy AIADMK….”

Thus, Modi’s meeting with Karunanidhi could be seen as a balancing act between the ruling party and the main opposition with an eye on 2019

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