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Karuna tests Modi waters

Modi

Chennai, Feb. 28: M. Karunanidhi is back at his favourite game of sending confusing signals, terming Narendra Modi “a good friend”.

An interview published today by Tamil daily Dinamalar quotes the DMK chief as saying that Modi is a hard worker.

“One can see it in the number of public meetings he is addressing. He is also a good friend of mine,” Karunanidhi said.

Asked whether this meant the DMK might join forces with the BJP, Karunanidhi replied that no one could predict what might happen after the elections.

The former chief minister had earlier too made friendly remarks about Modi only to deny them after publication. But this time, he did not issue a denial when reporters met him this afternoon.

Besides, the choice of the daily — which has a distinct pro-BJP leaning but is less friendly towards the DMK — suggests that Karunanidhi wants to keep his channels with the BJP open with a post-election scenario in mind.

The DMK chief also stressed that the DMK had been a trouble-free ally, whether in the National Democratic Alliance or the United Progressive Alliance.

“That’s why, even though we are not in the UPA, Congress leaders continue to meet me. On the other hand, when Jayalalithaa withdrew support to the (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee government, he (Vajpayee) had said he could finally sleep peacefully,” Karunanidhi said.

“The inference is obvious,” a DMK official said. “The BJP will encounter fewer troubles with the DMK than with the AIADMK.”

He added: “Also, by calling Modi a good friend, our leader wants the world to know that Modi is not just a friend of Jayalalithaa.”

Karunanidhi’s sudden warmth for Modi presents a contrast with his remarks during his party’s general council meeting in December.

He had then said that “the BJP of today is not the same as the BJP under Vajpayee”, indicating that the current BJP leadership might not be as accommodative as Vajpayee was.

Karunanidhi had also told a party conference in Tiruchy earlier this month that there was little chance that the DMK might tie up with either the BJP or the Congress.

The DMK now has just four allies: two Dalit parties and two Muslim parties, essentially small players. Its efforts to bring actor Vijayakanth’s DMDK within the fold have so far proved futile.

Karunanidhi’s pro-Modi comments have not gone down well with his two Muslim allies.

“Even if he has no pre-poll pact with the BJP, the suggestion that he is not averse to joining hands with the BJP and Modi after the elections has made the DMK’s Muslim supporters uncomfortable,” said a leader of the MMK, a Muslim party.

DMK sources argued that Karunanidhi’s remarks were aimed at a post-poll possibility rather than a pre-poll one. State BJP leaders too ruled out any election pact with the DMK.

“Karunanidhi is a master with words. Tomorrow he might call it just a general observation and not a political statement,” a state BJP official said.

“So, we’ll wait and watch. Our focus is now on forging and finalising our own front, which would include the DMDK, PMK and the MDMK.”