The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hospital turns political hub

Chennai, Oct. 29: Politics in Tamil Nadu seems headed for a shake-up and the trigger has been DMK parliamentary party leader Murasoli Maran’s prolonged illness.

Jailed MDMK leader Vaiko had asked his party’s presidium chairman, L. Ganesan, to visit the Union minister at Apollo Hospitals, where Maran is admitted for over a month now. It was the first sign of the MDMK warming up to the DMK at the state level, where both are fiercely conscious of their identities despite being BJP allies at the Centre.

If a thaw comes about, it could have long-term implications for the National Democratic Alliance, especially after DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s tirade against “Hindutva” last week at a rally where he joined Congress leaders to denounce Jayalalithaa’s Ordinance banning conversions.

Vaiko’s son Durai Vaiyapuri also visited the hospital. He reportedly had a long chat with Karunanidhi and complained that the BJP had “washed their hands of” his father who has been in Vellore Central jail for over 100 days now.

Vaiko was arrested under the anti-terror Act for his open support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Soon after this meeting, Karunanidhi, in a surprise development, sent Durai Murugan, deputy leader of the DMK legislature party, to call on Vaiko two days ago. The two spoke to each other for nearly an hour.

The meeting triggered speculation in political circles that the DMK chief might himself call on Vaiko soon.

Karunanidhi has not ruled out meeting the MDMK leader in jail, but maintains that a date is yet to be fixed.

Sources said if Karunanidhi meets Vaiko, it could imply two lines of action. It could pave the way for the MDMK’s return to the parent party or, if that does not happen, at least a greater co-ordination, should the DMK choose to quit the BJP-led NDA at a later date.

Vaiko has played down the significance of a possible visit by Karunanidhi. About Murugan’s visit, he said the DMK leader was only “returning the courtesy” after he had sent word through his party functionaries to enquire about Maran’s health.

“Of course, I will be very happy if Karunanidhi also comes to meet me,” Vaiko said but added that any such meeting “would not be an occasion to think through the kind of anticipations you have in mind”.

Asked how he would respond if Karunanidhi invited him to rejoin the DMK, Vaiko shot back: “That is a hypothetical question.”

However, news of a possible meeting between Karunanidhi and Vaiko has ruffled feathers within the DMK, particularly at a time when the MDMK leader’s bete noire, M.K. Stalin, is preparing himself up for a greater role in the DMK.

Stalin, on the advice of his doctor, was recently admitted to Apollo Hospitals to be treated for a “viral fever”.

Observers say he wants to send a signal to his father that he would disapprove of any plan to meet Vaiko in prison.

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