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Jaya seat salvo strains ties with BJP

New Delhi, Feb. 12: Tensions in Jayalalithaa’s second honeymoon with the BJP have surfaced even before the two have inked their pact on seat-sharing in Tamil Nadu, with the ADMK chief scuttling the re-nomination of a powerful state rival.

Jayalalithaa got the BJP to deny a ticket to Union minister of state for communications and information technology S. Thirunavukkarasu from Podukottai, his home turf from where he won the last Lok Sabha elections and which has seen him to the Assembly four times.

The 1999 insult — when Jayalalithaa toppled the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government — etched in their memory, BJP leaders obliged without a fight.

In February 2002, Thirunavukkarasu had merged his MGR ADMK with the BJP at a function here. Vajpayee had hailed the first leader from a Dravidian party to join the BJP and said the move was part of the BJP’s “social engineering” in the southern state.

The BJP wanted to re-nominate Thirunavukkarasu for the Lok Sabha polls, keeping in mind the 8 to 9 per cent backward Thevar votes spread across the six southern districts of the state.

However, the ADMK chief said a firm no. Jayalalithaa told BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu that he should not be fielded anywhere from the state and, adding salt to the injury, declared that the “dhrohi” (betrayer) should not be made a minister if the National Democratic Alliance returned to power.

The BJP leaders — including Naidu and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who held separate talks with the chief minister on alliance formation — could not say no. BJP strategists are now trying their best to stop the Thevar leader from crossing over to the DMK-led front. If he does, the elections would see the rout of the BJP-ADMK combine, analysts say.

Thirunavukkarasu, who was here for talks with BJP leaders, left for Chennai last night. Sources close to him said he is planning to call a meeting of all his erstwhile MGR ADMK supporters — some of them are local BJP leaders now — to decide his future course of action.

One version, according to the sources, is that despite the insult, the Thevar leader could float the “Tamil Nadu Bharatiya ADMK” and continue to support the NDA as he holds Vajpayee in high esteem.

Moreover, he is on good terms with Naidu and other BJP leaders like Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley. The sources, however, said DMK chief M. Karunanidhi is “instigating” Thirunavukkarasu to come out of the NDA.

Sources close to Thirunavukkarasu said Jayalalithaa had made it clear to Naidu at their very first meeting in Chennai that the Union minister should not be re-nominated. When Naidu told her Thirunavukkarasu had done nothing to warrant such a treatment, the chief minister bluntly told him to do as she said if they were serious about an alliance. The alliance committee set up by them met thrice, but could not solve the irritant.

The 57-year-old Thevar leader was the youngest minister in the late MGR’s cabinet and had helped Jayalalithaa claim the ADMK founder’s legacy when his widow Janaki tried to wrest power.

However, Jayalalithaa returned the favour by denying him a ticket to contest the Assembly elections as she was in the process of purging all those MGR confidants whom she thought might emerge as a threat. Thirunavukkarasu contested as an Independent and won and then switched loyalties to Karunanidhi.

Karunanidhi, too, ditched him in 1996, forcing Thirunavukkarasu to float the MGR ADMK. He again won without the support of either the ADMK and the DMK, though in 1999, he won the Lok Sabha polls with DMK support.

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