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Amid TN-Centre tension, Shah’s birthday call to Kanimozhi rings loud from Delhi to Chennai

A day after the call, on January 6, CM Stalin told the state Assembly: “Refusing to meet people's representatives is anti-democratic.”

Amit Shah KanimozhiUnion Home Minister Amit Shah (L), Tamil Nadu MP Kanimozhi.

Amid growing tension between the BJP-led Centre and the DMK government in Tamil Nadu, a phone call from Union Home Minister Amit Shah to Kanimozhi more than a month ago has now become a topic of fierce discussion within the party, sources said.

Shah called DMK MP M Kanimozhi to wish her on her 54th birthday on January 5 at a time when her party leaders were kept waiting by the Home Minister for an appointment to discuss the Bill that seeks exemption for the state from the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).

Kanimozhi, the Lok Sabha MP from Thoothukkudi, confirmed to The Indian Express that Shah had called her.

Sources familiar with the developments said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, Kanimozhi’s half-brother, had not taken kindly to the call. Senior DMK leaders feel that more than “just a courtesy call”, it “had political connotations”, particularly as it coincided with Shah dilly-dallying over meeting the DMK delegation over the NEET Bill.

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A day after the call, on January 6, Stalin told the state Assembly: “Refusing to meet people’s representatives is anti-democratic.”

A delegation led by DMK MP T R Baalu had initially submitted a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind explaining the problems caused to students due to NEET. The President’s office had forwarded the same to Shah. DMK MP A Raja, who said Baalu organised the meetings, told The Indian Express: “The meeting finally happened on January 17.”

The NEET Bill has become a bone of contention between the Stalin government and Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi. Although the Tamil Nadu Assembly unanimously passed the Bill, Ravi has not forwarded it to President Ram Nath Kovind for his approval.

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The development comes at a time when Stalin is eyeing a bigger role for himself in the national-level Opposition sphere. On Sunday, he said West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, who has also been at loggerheads with her governor, Jagdeep Dhankhar, had called him, and that a convention of anti-BJP Opposition leaders would be held in Delhi soon to discuss “curtailment of autonomy of states”.

Recently, Stalin had joined other Opposition-ruled governments in opposing changes to IAS cadre rules that give the Centre more say. In another move underlining its differences with the BJP government, the DMK government had decided that it would refer to it not as “Centre” but “Union Government”in official communications.

Apart from a bid to undermine Stalin, the DMK is seeing Shah’s call to Kanimozhi as an attempt to drive a wedge in the DMK first family. Before M Karunanidhi’s death, Kanimozhi was among the contenders for the DMK patriarch’s political legacy. While the succession battle is now settled in Stalin’s favour, the projection of his son Udhayanidhi as the next generation leader is said to have reopened old wounds.

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Udhayanidhi, an actor-turned- politician, won from the Chepauk-Triplicane Assembly seat in last year’s state election, and could be inducted into the Stalin-led government soon, sources said.

First published on: 14-02-2022 at 02:31:38 pm
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