New Delhi/ Chennai: “Ethaiyum thangum idhayam vendum endru Perarignar Anna engalukku sollikodutthirukkirukkirar".
Translated, it reads: 'The wise Anna (late DMK founder C N Annadurai) had taught us that it's necessary to have a heart that can bear anything'.
And that was the cryptic reply, accompanied by a laboured smile soaked in pain, from Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam when reporters at the Chennai airport asked him late Tuesday evening to comment on news from New Delhi that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had snubbed him in declining to meet him earlier in the day, despite his spending over 30 minutes at her South Block office.
Without giving the journalists further chance to fling yet another embarrassing question on his disastrous Delhi trip, OPS turned away from the TV mikes and cameras and walked away, with AIADMK deputy coordinator and former minister K. P. Munusamy and ex-MP Manoj Pandian, presently the state additional advocate general in tow. Both of them had accompanied him when he took the flight to Delhi Monday night.
Before leaving the Tamil Nadu Bhavan Tuesday afternoon for the drive to the Raksha Mantri's office for the 2.30 pm appointment, a beaming OPS told reporters that he was going to meet her to personally thank her for helping his sick brother reach hospital on a defence chopper.
"This is not a political visit. I have come to pay respects to Hon'ble Nirmala Sitharaman. She did a big favour for me by providing an air ambulance for my brother when he had taken ill to reach him from Madurai to Chennai. I have come to convey my heartfelt gratitude to her", the Deputy CM said, before getting into the waiting car along with AIADMI MP Dr V. Meitreyan and heading for South Block.
AIADMK sources told DC that OPS and Meitreyan arrived at Nirmala's office at about 2.15 pm and waited to be called in for the meeting with her. However, only the MP was called at 2.30 and it appears even he got a rather 'stiff' treatment with the minister expressing displeasure that the TN Deputy CM — and the CM too Tuesday morning — chose to proclaim to the world through the media about the 'personal help' rendered by her to help his ailing brother. Military ambulances are not usually deployed for civilian use unless it's a time of distress or a conflict zone; so using it for OPS' brother could kick up avoidable controversy at a time when the opposition Congress has been trying to 'bomb' the South Block on Rafale fighter jets.
At 2.44 pm, the office of Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted she did not meet OPS. "Appointment was given to Shri V. Meitreyan, MP, Rajya Sabha. Deputy CM of Tamil Nadu has NOT met Smt Nirmala Sitharaman", said the tweet.
After failing to get Nirmala's audience, OPS drove straight to the airport to catch the flight back home. Only the previous evening, he had been given a rousing reception by AIADMK MPs at the Delhi airport when he arrived from Chennai amidst speculation that he was in the capital to iron out some issues popping out of the recent IT raids in Tamil Nadu.
The trip was a huge setback to the man, who had been considered close to the BJP in the turbulent days just after Jayalalithaa's demise — he was able to meet PM Narendra Modi some half-a-dozen times in just six months.
AIADMK sources admitted that the Defence Minister's office was correct in stating that the appointment was given to Dr Meiteyan, but then, the MP had sought time from Nirmala Sitharaman only on behalf of OPS and for the limited purpose of personally thanking her for helping his ailing brother. The Deputy CM had flown down all the way from Chennai and he was snubbed, said an AIADMK senior requesting anonymity.
Does this mean that his party's relations with the BJP have soured? "We don't really know. There are worrying indicators — Amit Shah accusing our government of corruption, Pon Radhakrishnan alleging big terrorist activity in Tamil Nadu and now these IT raids that have played us straight into the DMK hands — but then, we are sure that the BJP cannot afford to lose our support with the Lok Sabha elections happening next year", said the AIADMK leader....