Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa may skip PM-designate Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on May 26, following the growing opposition to the new government’s invitation to Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa on the occasion.
Jayalalithaa was expected to attend the swearing-in, given her personal equation with Modi. But with all political parties of the state expressing strong reservations about the matter, she may change her mind.
The AIADMK chief is understood to have conveyed the party’s sentiments to the BJP leadership. But state BJP president Pon Radhakrishnan said there was noting wrong in inviting a leader of a neighbouring country.
India’s ties with Sri Lanka had always been swayed by the domestic politics of Tamil Nadu. But Modi, given the BJP majority in Parliament, is not dependent on Tamil parties to run the government and is expected to follow a more independent policy on Lanka.
The India-Sri Lanka ties, which had hit a rough patch over India’s vote against Colombo at the UN Human Rights Council, have been on the mend. Last time, India had abstained from the vote, much to the satisfaction of Sri Lanka.
Rajapaksa, a nationalistic leader, was among the first leaders to reach out to Modi after election victory. But after an invitation was extended to him, Tamil Nadu erupted in protest.
MDMK leader Vaiko was the first to raise the demand that Rajapaksa not be allowed to participate in Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.
“With folded hands and anguish, I request you, BJP president Rajnath Singh and NDA leaders, not to permit the Sri Lankan president to take part in the event. His participation would cause pain to the Tamils,” Vaiko said in a statement issued late on Wednesday night.
On Thursday, the DMK, too, criticised the invitation and said it will hurt Tamil sentiments. “Modi should respect the feelings of all the people of India and especially the sentiments of Tamil Nadu,” party spokesperson TKS Elangovan told a television channel.
BJP’s Radhakrishnan said he hoped the invitation would not become a Centre-state issue. “Inviting Rajapaksa as part of the SAARC grouping is one thing and inviting him and giving him awards is something else,” he said. “The knife is the same, but the difference is whether it is in the hands of a doctor or a killer.”