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Jaya, Hema meet fans tie-up talk

Chennai, July 22: When two former film stars met here yesterday, it unleashed a flood of speculation on likely political realignments in Tamil Nadu.

BJP’s star campaigner Hema Malini and her brother called on chief minister Jayalalithaa of the ADMK at the secretariat.

Though they met briefly, during what was officially dubbed a courtesy call, the speculation refused to die down.

The BJP has, after all, been flirting with Jayalalithaa of late. For instance, state party chief C.P. Radhakrishnan called on the chief minister twice in recent times — the latest two weeks ago. And National Democratic Alliance convener George Fernandes made a courtesy call a few months ago.

Jayalalithaa, too, has been making moves that will appeal to the Sangh parivar. One such instance has been her government passing a law against forced conversions.

The chief minister had, in fact, set aside her preoccupation with the Supreme Court judgment on sacked state government employees to meet Hema Malini.

Radhakrishnan, however, today played down the significance of the meeting. He said it was not political.

But the denial did little to dampen speculations about the growing closeness of the two parties, especially as the meeting came two days after BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan said in Raipur that the BJP was having trouble with the DMK in Tamil Nadu. The remark made on the sidelines of the Raipur executive was the first time the BJP’s leadership had officially admitted to the strain with the NDA partner. The DMK has already severed its ties with the state BJP.

Radhakrishnan, however, refuted the growing impression of closeness by citing the ADMK’s role in letting down his party in Parliament in 1998 when the BJP lost confidence by one vote.

“From then on, the BJP has never shared a political platform with the ADMK. On the contrary, it was the DMK, which, by sharing a platform with both the Congress and the Left parties in Tamil Nadu, has given rise to this erroneous impression that we are warming up to the ADMK,” he said. Radhakrishnan emphasised there was “no scope” for the ADMK to enter the NDA as long as the DMK was a member.

He, however, added that it was “absurd” of the DMK to claim it was part of the NDA only at the Centre and not in the state.

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