|Vijayakanth (second from right), his brother-in-law Sutheesh and wife Premalatha greet Modi in Parliament. (PTI)
Chennai, May 20: Soon after NDA leaders completed their speeches in Parliament’s Central Hall today, Narendra Modi looked out for Vijayakanth.
“Where is Vijayakanth and his wife?” the BJP mascot asked. As the actor-politician stood up from among the leaders, Modi asked: “Where is your wife?” Vijayakanth pointed to her in the audience and Modi gushed: “Kya kaam kiya isne (What a wonderful job she did).”
Premalatha stood up and did a bashful namaste, delighted at the special recognition she had just received from the Prime Minister-elect.
By reaching out to the couple, Modi undid a small goof-up by Rajnath Singh, who had failed to invite any of the NDA’s Tamil Nadu leaders to felicitate the party mascot.
Modi’s gesture carried greater meaning in the context of Tamil Nadu — to keep Vijayakanth’s DMDK firmly entrenched in the BJP camp even though the party failed to win any of the 14 Lok Sabha seats it contested this time.
Modi seemed to publicly recognise that only Vijayakanth and Premalatha campaigned in all 39 seats for all NDA partners. PMK leader S. Ramadoss had refused to do so, concentrating only on nominees of his party. Other allies like Vaiko did much the same.
After chief minister Jayalaltihaa, it was Premalatha who was seen as the strongest woman campaigner, noticed for her fluent and well-argued speeches.
State BJP leaders who watched on TV Modi’s praise for Vijayakanth and his wife called it a masterstroke. “He recognised that keeping the DMDK close will be prudent, especially for the 2016 state polls,” said a state BJP leader.
BJP leaders cited the plummeting vote share of the DMK — it did not win a single Lok Sabha seat this time — to argue their party could rise to a strong third spot in the 2016 state polls.
For this to happen, it is important to keep Vijayakanth in good humour, the BJP leaders said. They didn’t rule out a Rajya Sabha nomination for Premalatha from one of the BJP-ruled states, even a ministerial berth. This would ensure the DMDK is not wooed away by the DMK for the state elections.
The attention being lavished on the DMDK would rankle with Jayalalithaa, but the BJP leaders feel that her ruling AIADMK is unlikely to align with any of the NDA constituents for 2016 given her party’s robust performance in this election — it won 37 of the state’s 39 Lok Sabha seats. “So we have to make our own political arrangements,” said a BJP office-bearer.