Berth pangs for Tamil Nadu in PM Modi 2.0 cabinet

The second round might provide a second berth for these allies, so we might get our desired two as well, says the AIADMK senior.

Chennai: The AIADMK has been hit by a thunderbolt in Delhi, right on the wondrous grounds of Rashtrapati Bhavan. A dozen ministers, including the CM and Deputy CM, were there amid the front rows, witnessing the grand swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi and his Cabinet late evening of Thursday and if one could spot any relaxed smile on any of those faces, that must have been pure plastic. It's not hard to guess the reason; the grand team of 'Modi, 2.0' did not include even one from TN's ruling party.

This actually is the second big jolt for Amma's party, post-Amma. Contesting the Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the BJP and PMK, it managed to win just one seat at Theni while the rival DMK-Congress team swept the polls. Even so, Deputy CM O Panneerselvam reportedly made a strong pitch to get his son Raveendranath Kumar into the NDA Cabinet, at least as a Minister of State - reports said the Theni MP had even given his choice of 'juicy' portfolios: Communications, Aviation or Fertilisers. It appears that dad had spoken high of young Raveendranath's big victory at Theni and pointed out that he was an elected MP.

Sources said OPS' representation to PM Modi fell through as CM Palaniswami conveyed that Raveendranath is a first-time MP whereas Rajya Sabha MP, R Vaithilingam is a senior leader and had been a minister in the state. The AIADMK contingent waited in Delhi for that all-important phone call from the PMO informing about the choice between the two, but no call came. It was possible that the obvious rift between the EPS and OPS camps made the PM to pickle the decision on AIADMK representation, for now.

“This humiliation would not have happened if only Amma was with us today”, said an AIADMK leader requesting anonymity.

Another senior AIADMK MP said the reason his party had asked for two berths -one for Raveendranath and the other for Vaithilingam - whereas the PM decided to give only one. “In fact, all the allies have been given only one berth now and that includes even the influential Shiv Sena. The Union Cabinet may have up to 80 ministers whereas there are now only 58, including the PM. Perhaps the second round of inductions could see the AIADMK in the team”, he said.

“The second round might provide a second berth for these allies, so we might get our desired two as well”, said the AIADMK senior.

Yet another AIADMK MP wondered how the CM and team would handle the media at the Chennai airport when they return from the Capital. “As it is, our rivals make fun saying we are subservient to the BJP after Amma. Now they will say so many ministers - EPS, OPS, Thangamani, Velumani, Sengottaiyan and Jayakumar - besides Thambidurai and perhaps many others from the party, had been to the swearing-in ceremony and we came back empty-handed”, he said.

“It would have been better if the AIADMK had announced we will support NDA from outside. Now it looks like we went there hoping to be called into the Union Cabinet and got snubbed”, he said.

Two Tamils in cabinet

"The AIADMK might not have got a berth but we have two Tamils in the Union Cabinet and both will be in vitally important ministries", quipped an AIADMK senior when asked how it felt to be hopeful of being in NDA-2.0 and ending up empty-handed.

True, former Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar are Tamils, but does that console the crestfallen Amma brigade after this 'denial' of berth in the Modi Cabinet?

While Nirmala will seek re-election to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, from where she had got into the Upper House earlier, it is not clear whether Jaishankar will be given a seat from home state Tamil Nadu.

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