iconimg Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 29, 2014
In 2009, then Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi spent three days in Tamil Nadu but avoided meeting DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi. The incident led to so much undercurrent of tension that not only Gandhi promptly clarified that he is an “admirer” of Karunanidhi but some Congress seniors flew down to Chennai in the next few weeks to appease a sulking DMK.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went the extra mile — literally — to keep his key Dravidian supporter in good humour: On way to Sriharikota for the satellite launch, Modi made a stopover in Chennai to meet the state’s chief minister and  AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa.

The CM, who met Modi in Delhi earlier this month and submitted a long list of demands, also reciprocated and went to the Chennai airport — a rare gesture by her standards — to receive the PM. She had regularly avoided receiving then PM Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee.

During UPA regime, Congress bigwigs used to rush to Chennai to meet Karunanidhi over issues ranging from the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils to arrest of his daughter Kanimozhi.

Modi too, is taking no chances with Jayalalithaa, who is described by a Left leader as a “temperamental politician”. Modi needs her support, especially in the Rajya Sabha, to pass crucial bills. Sunday’s meeting, days before the beginning of the budget session, shows Modi is ready to walk the extra mile to bring more partners on board and sideline the Congress-led bloc further.