Chennai: When Edappadi K. Palaniswami joins the top brass of the BJP on Friday at the ceremonial filing of nomination papers by NDA's Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind at New Delhi, the rulers at the Centre will be all smiles as their efforts to 'redeem' the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister from the Mannargudi family have fructified.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah personally spoke to CM Palaniswami on different occasions to solicit the AIADMK's support for Kovind and in the process underlined the fact that the party and the Centre would only deal with “elected leaders” and “not people from one family.” The BJP took slow but strong steps to bring Palaniswami into its camp like it brought his predecessor O Panneerselvam into the fold a few months ago.
The TN CM will not just share space with NDA top guns like his Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu, but is also likely to sign Kovind's nomination papers, a rare honour that only veteran leaders from the state like M. Karunanidhi and J. Jayalalithaa had got in the past.
BJP insiders say the party took every effort to ensure that the Sasikala family was kept out of the AIADMK affairs and in this process the BJP consulted only Mr Palaniswami, on the Presidential elections along with Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai. Though many see Thambidurai's visit to Bengaluru prison to meet Sasikala Natarajan as an effort to placate her, BJP leaders say it could have been to issue a stern message that the family should 'see the writing on the wall and refrain from meddling in party affairs'.
Even AIADMK insiders say the Chief Minister is not inclined towards allowing the family to have its say and point to Wednesday's Iftar party for which AIADMK deputy general secretary T. T. V. Dhinakaran was not invited. Though Dhinakaran enjoys support of 30 MLAs, his supporters would not rock the government's boat and this has emboldened the CM, the insiders say.
Political analyst Ravindran Duraisamy says Modi's invitation to Palaniswami should be seen in the context of the BJP's efforts to unite the two warring factions of the AIADMK.
“It is a major victory for the PM in bringing Palaniswami and the AIADMK out of the control of the Sasikala family. By doing so, the Prime Minister is taking a very bold step in bringing the AIADMK out of the Dravidian politics,” Duraisamy said.
However, MGR's biographer and UN diplomat R. Kannan says it is too early to reach such an inference from the invitation. “The Edappadi faction has extended support to BJP's Kovind. EPS got the invitation because he is the CM. No AIADMK faction, including the defector TTV faction, is in a position to antagonise the BJP or the Centre,” Kannan told Deccan Chronicle.
Sources in AIADMK and BJP say that Modi and Shah are very clear that both factions of TN's ruling party should unite at the earliest. “The plan is to let them unite and align with the BJP in the 2019 parliamentary polls and 2021 assembly elections,” the sources said, adding, “When Rajinikanth finally makes his entry into politics, his party will form a formidable threesome to take on the DMK”....