Chennai, April 13: Two hours before Narendra Modi met and hugged “good friend” Rajinikanth at the actor’s Chennai home today, Jayalalithaa did something she had avoided so far during the campaign — attack the BJP.
Jayalalithaa and Modi have had good relations and attended each other’s last swearing-ins, and the Tamil Nadu chief minister is believed to be keeping her post-poll options open.
The immediate provocation for her tirade appeared to be the BJP’s attempt to enlist the superstar’s support by getting Modi to meet him.
Rajinikanth usually keeps his distance from politics but described Modi as a “strong leader and capable administrator” and hoped his election wishes would “come true”.
Both politician and actor, however, described the meeting as a mere social visit.
A friend of the actor recalled that a seriously ill Rajinikanth had been touched when Modi and L.K. Advani visited him at a Chennai hospital two years ago.
A statement from Rajinikanth, read out at Modi’s rally here today, said: “When I was in hospital he used to call me frequently and enquire about my health. I requested him to visit my house when he came to Chennai.
“We have been friends and well-wishers for a long time. We need a strong government at the Centre. I know Modiji is a strong leader and a capable administrator. I told Modiji that his wishes about the elections will come true.”
State BJP leaders believe that photos of today’s meeting will add zing to their campaign. Modi too posted a picture of himself with the “Superstar” on Twitter.
Jayalalithaa said the state should vote for neither a Congress-led front nor a BJP-led one. “They’ve always betrayed Tamil Nadu’s interests on the Cauvery waters,” she told a rally.
There had been two more provocations. One, Congress leader P. Chidambaram had said she would back a Modi government after the polls.
Two, ally Tamil Nadu Tauheed Jamaat had threatened to reconsider its support if Jayalalithaa continued to avoid criticising the BJP.
Modi hit back at today’s rally, scoffing at how the AIADMK and the DMK were obsessed with fixing each other.
Rajinikanth and Jayalalithaa have had a testy relationship.
In the early 1990s, the actor’s car was stopped a few streets from his Poes Garden home since the chief minister’s motorcade was to pass through.
After waiting nearly 40 minutes, Rajinikanth stepped out of the car, leaned against a lamppost and lit a cigarette — enough to stop hundreds dead in their tracks and turn the road into “an umbrella of human heads”, according to a biography. With the chief minister’s motorcade due soon, the police panicked and pleaded with the actor to get into the car and move on.
Ahead of the 1996 elections, Rajinikanth endorsed the DMK-Tamil Maanila Congress alliance saying: “Even God cannot save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalithaa is voted back to power.” She was routed.