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Amit Shah to attend memorial conference of Karunandhi as BJP tries to woo DMK for LS polls

The development comes at a time when MK Stalin who is currently serving as the working president of DMK is likely to be elevated as the party president at a general council meeting on August 28.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2018 19:06 IST
M Manikandan
M Manikandan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Amit Shah,Karunanidhi,DMK
DMK sources have indicated that Amit Shah was very keen to attend and has confirmed his participation in the memorial.(PTI File Photo)

The decision of Bharatiya Janata Party’s national president Amit Shah to take part in the ‘Ninaivanjali’ (remembrance) conference to pay tribute to the late Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch M Karunanidhi in Chennai on August 30, has set off speculations that BJP is trying to woo the Dravidian party for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The development comes at a time when MK Stalin who is currently serving as the working president of DMK is likely to be elevated as the party president at a general council meeting on August 28. Karunanidhi had already announced his son Stalin as his successor.

For this remembrance conference in the memory of Karunanidhi, who died here on August 7, Stalin and the DMK had invited all the national and regional party leaders of the country. DMK sources however indicated that Amit Shah was very keen and has confirmed his participation.

While DMK is currently part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Congress president Rahul Gandhi will incidentally not be present, as he is currently abroad, addressing the Indian diaspora. Senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad will attend on his behalf.

With just eight months remaining for the Lok Sabha elections, parties have already started alliance discussions. Since the BJP president is sharing a dais after a decade with DMK leaders, political observers opine that this development could be the saffron party’s move to woo the Dravidan party.

“All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is in a weak position as it has vertically split into two factions. Though Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) were in the alliance of BJP in 2014, PMK founder S. Ramadoss has made it clear that his party will not align with BJP. Actor Vijayakanth who heads DMDK on Friday announced that his party will contest all the 40 parliamentary constitutiencies of TN and Puducherry without any alliance,” said Raveendran Duraisamy, a political analyst in Chennai.

He recalled that Amit Shah, on his Chennai visit on July 9, had said that BJP is open for an alliance in the state.

“Though DMK and BJP have different ideologies, this is the first time in a decade that the president of BJP is going to share the dais with DMK leaders. Obviously, BJP wants to woo DMK ahead of LS polls,” he noted.

Another political commentator A Marx pointed out that prime minister Narendra Modi had visited the ailing Karunanidhi at his residence in November 2017 and when the DMK chief was admitted to the Kauvery hospital on July 28, many senior BJP leaders and Union ministers had visited him.

Prime minister Modi was also present at the funeral on August 8.

“While it maybe common courtesy it is also a fact that BJP leaders have gone out of their way to show deference to Karunanidhi and his legacy to keep DMK in good humour,” Marx noted. This was despite of occasional accusations by DMK that AIADMK was now being controlled by BJP via proxies, he added.

He also said that DMK seems to have softened its anti-BJP stand now.

“If it was the anti-BJP DMK of yore, Stalin could have merely paid his respects at (former prime minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee’s funeral. However, he went to Kamalalayam – the BJP state headquarters - and paid tribute to the urn containing the ashes of the former prime minister. So, both DMK and BJP are doing a careful dance of trying to gauge each others motives and needs. It may be recalled that Karunanidhi had declared that BJP was not an untouchable party in 1998 itself,” said Marx.

In this response, SR Sekar, BJP state treasurer, said that Shah has already made it clear that the party is open to any alliance.

“Except for Congress, everyone in the state has been in alliance with us at some time or the other in the past. So, anything is possible at the time of elections. But these developments should be seen as a civilized political culture,” Sekar told HT.

However, Congress president Su Thirunavukkarasar says Amit Shah’s visit to DMK president’s memorial conference is not a sign that BJP is getting close to DMK.

“We are already in an alliance with DMK. Our leader Rahul Gandhi has spent a whole day in Chennai on August 8 to pay his tributes to Karunanidhi. He left Chennai only after the burial of Karunanidhi. As he is traveling abroad now, he is not in a position to take part in the memorial conference. So, it is not right to say that Congress is distancing itself from DMK,” Thirunavukkarasar told HT.

R S Bharathi, organization secretary of DMK, however claimed that his party will not align with the BJP.

“Our working president M K Stalin has made it very clear that we are not having any relationship with BJP. Since PM and Amit Shah had visited us at the time of the death of our leader Karunanidhi, Stalin attended the funeral of Vajpayee. Since we invited all the regional and national party leaders, Amit Shah has expressed his interest to attend this conference,” Bharathi told HT.

Asked about Rahul Gandhi’s absence, he said that the Congress president is travelling overseas.

“Since the BJP government at the Centre is against states’ autonomy, we had planned for conducting a state autonomy conference on August 30. Hence, we invited all the non-BJP leaders across the state. Even Rahul Gandhi agreed to attend that, but we cancelled it later due to the demise of our leader,” he noted.

Bharathi also said the decision to hold a conference to pay tribute to the DMK leader was taken only last week.

“However by then Rahul had altered his schedule and left for overseas. So, he is not in a position to attend the conference now,” he added.

For now though, the decision of BJP chief to attend an DMK event on the same day when originally an anti-BJP conference was planned has led to sparked of talks on political realignment.

First Published: Aug 24, 2018 19:06 IST