The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 25 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Patch of south that is warm to Modi

Actor Nagarjuna (right) met Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar on Monday for over an hour. “I had no specific reason for the meeting. I was invited by Modi through Venkaiah Naidu,” the actor told reporters. Nagarjuna has now joined a list of Telugu film actors who have met the Gujarat chief minister, including Jana Sena founder Pawan Kalyan, Krishnam Raju, Jeevitha Rajasekhar and Kota Srinivasa. Bollywood musician Bappi Lahiri had also met Modi. (PTI picture)

Chennai, March 24: A quiz question to test your political savvy: which is currently the friendliest state for Narendra Modi?

Home state Gujarat? Wrong answer. Uttar Pradesh, from where too Modi will contest? Nope. Rajasthan, where Vasundhara Raje has promised him 25 of the 28 seats?

No. It’s Dravidian heartland Tamil Nadu where the BJP has been — and remains — a minor player. Just listen to the election speeches there.

While Modi has been providing target practice for the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party elsewhere in the country, there hasn’t been a peep against him out of Jayalalithaa or M. Karunanidhi — or even the state Congress.

This despite the BJP-led five-party alliance tom-tomming its prime ministerial candidate across the state.

In her dozen-odd election meetings so far, Jayalalithaa has slammed the Congress for the country’s economic ills and the DMK for having been a silent UPA ally till recently.

But the BJP hasn’t received even a passing mention in her speeches, or in those by DMK lead campaigner M.K. Stalin, whose attacks are focused entirely on the AIADMK government’s performance.

The Left, currently the lone anti-Modi voice in the state, has a purported explanation.

“One main reason why Modi is being treated with kid gloves is that both the AIADMK and the DMK are looking to team up with his government if the NDA falls short of numbers. So, they don’t want to look unfriendly towards Modi,” state CPM general secretary G. Ramakrishnan said.

“Karunanidhi has cleverly kept a door open by calling Modi a good friend and an able administrator. When Jayalalithaa asks voters not to vote for any other front, she does not even mention the NDA by name. It’s a strange spectacle where the two major Dravidian players are refusing to antagonise the BJP and Modi.”

Another angle to the Big Two’s silence is that they don’t want to give too much importance to the BJP-led front and thus increase its political relevance in the battle ahead.

The ally-less Congress is busy trying to project a picture of confidence. So it has been reduced to just one line of campaigning: “We’ll prove our strength in this election; the people will vote for us on the basis of the UPA’s record.”

Modi and the BJP simply do not figure on the Congress campaigners’ radar screens. The state BJP and its new allies are happy.

“The AIADMK and the DMK are busy attacking each other. The Congress is trying to survive all alone. So we need to concentrate only on the ‘Modi for PM’ line, which is being challenged by no one except the Left,” BJP national secretary Vanathi Srinivasan said.

Jayalalithaa, who has picked P. Chidambaram and A. Raja for special attack, has even avoided the expected claims about Tamil Nadu performing better than Gujarat in health, education and welfare projects.

Instead, she has been busy countering Karunanidhi’s allegation that she had sent volunteers to Ayodhya for kar seva. Stalin sounds as if he is fighting an Assembly election.

“Law and order in the state has deteriorated in the last three years…. Power cuts have increased…. All the infrastructure projects introduced by the DMK government are being blocked or delayed…” goes his refrain.

The DMK, handicapped by its long association with the UPA, has been unable to attack the Congress on any count other than the Lankan Tamils issue.

While Jayalalithaa has held out the promise of an AIADMK-allied government at the Centre that would address Tamil Nadu’s demands, the DMK cannot do even that since its role in a future combination in Delhi remains unclear.