An SUV comes out of the gate of 7 Race Course Road, which is the office — not the residence, as with earlier Prime Ministers — of Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister on Friday moved out of Gujarat Bhavan and into his 5 Race Course Road residence, after a small puja was performed in the morning. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
Chennai, May 30: Jayalalithaa will meet Narendra Modi on June 3 in Delhi to seek financial assistance for her state, the event offering the duo a chance to rekindle their past bonhomie that has got a little jaded recently.
Modi first derailed Jayalalithaa’s ambitions for a greater role in Delhi by leading the BJP to an absolute majority, and then upset her by inviting Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa to his swearing-in, compelling her to skip the event.
The two of them had earlier participated in each other’s swearing-ins as chief minister, at Chennai in 2011 and at Gandhinagar in 2012. But their friendship went into cold storage ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, when Jayalalithaa went it alone while the BJP struck a multi-party alliance that included her ally turned foe Vijayakanth.
Jayalalithaa had shared a frosty relationship with the UPA because the DMK was part of the alliance for most of its duration and because her bÍte noire P. Chidambaram played a pivotal role in its government. She is hopeful of a warmer outing with the Modi dispensation.
During the second half of the tenure of UPA II, which overlapped with Jayalalithaa’s latest stint as chief minister, she had met then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee — but only twice.
The only other Union minister to have met her was V. Narayanasamy, the junior minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, at the height of the anti-Kudankulam protests in 2011. None of the other UPA ministers — even those from Tamil Nadu — had called on her in Chennai, nor had she met any of them in Delhi.
All this is bound to change since Jayalalithaa badly needs the Centre’s help to revive the state’s economy, slowed down by massive power shortages and lack of infrastructural development. She needs a larger allocation from the Centre for power, railway and port development projects.
“Ahead of the 2016 Assembly elections, Jayalalithaa needs to present a government delivering on jobs and economic growth and cannot depend only on welfare measures and freebies,” said an official of industry chamber CII.
“Unless the power position improves, the manufacturing sector — especially the small and medium ones and the textile industry — will suffer, directly affecting skilled labour. She needs the Centre’s push to improve the investment climate here.”
Ahead of the Assembly elections, the Modi government too would like to present a pro-Tamil Nadu face to the voters here, which should help Jayalalithaa although any alliance between her and the BJP appears unlikely.
“Modi has promised that no state would be discriminated against even if it has not voted for us in a big way,” state BJP leader H. Raja said.
Modi’s recent diktat to his officials to devote more time to the demands from the states is an encouraging sign for Jayalalithaa.
But the Centre would also expect something in return from Jayalalithaa, especially her government’s co-operation in completing central projects.
Her government has cited local opposition to stop the National Highway Authority of India’s elevated motorway from Chennai port to the city outskirts and GAIL’s gas line from Kochi to Mangalore via western Tamil Nadu.
“Her record in completing infrastructure projects is pretty abysmal compared with the DMK’s and she needs to cooperate with the Centre if she expects something from Delhi,” a senior IAS officer said.
Jayalalithaa’s demand for setting up a Cauvery Management Board to oversee the implementation of the river tribunal’s award is bound to face resistance from the BJP’s Karnataka unit.
She is also sure to take up the issue of the attacks on the state’s fishermen by the Lankan Navy and reiterate her government’s opposition to the current oil pricing formula.
“Overall, there is bound to be greater reciprocity between Chennai and Delhi than what existed during the UPA’s tenure,” a senior AIADMK parliamentarian said.