At least twice in the past Union Home Minister Amit Shah had cancelled his visit to Tamil Nadu at the last minute.
But on Saturday (21 November), he kept his date with the state and has left an impact both within his party and the opposition, led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) that it will take some time for them to realise what hit them.
Shah’s two-day visit to Chennai was in connection with inaugurating a slew of government schemes.
Primary among them were the ground-laying ceremony for the second phase of 173-km long Chennai Metro Rail at an outlay of Rs 61,483 crore, inaugurating the Rs 900 crore jetty at Kamarajar Port and launching a check dam and barrage with sluice gates across the Cauvery river in Karur district at a cost of Rs 406 crore.
Shah also inaugurated the fifth reservoir for Greater Chennai at a cost of over Rs 350 crore, laid the foundation stone for an elevated expressway project in Coimbatore at a cost of Rs 1,620 crore, and launched the expansion of Chennai Trade Centre at an outlay of Rs 309 crore.
Inaugurating the schemes, the Home Minister said: “the schemes and funds provided to Tamil Nadu by the Central government are not meant for help but it is the right of Tamil Nadu that were not being given to it but Modi ji ensured that now Tamil Nadu gets its rights.”
But Shah smartly used the opportunity to highlight the fact that most of what the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was passing off as schemes of the Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) government were that of the Union government.
However, there were two significant developments during the Home Minister’s visit to Tamil Nadu.
More importantly in a gesture that should definitely cause concern for the opposition parties, pro-Tamil and anti-national elements, Shah chose to get down from his vehicle in the convoy from the airport on his way to the function and defiantly walked on the road greeting the crowd that had gathered to welcome him.
It was indeed an open challenge to those who had trended and been trending #GoBackAmitShah on Friday and Saturday. The image will linger for long, especially given what Amit Shah told the people of the state and his cadres later.
The Home Minister made his intentions clear that the BJP is in for a long haul in the state, apologising for his inability to speak in Tamil.
One, the AIADMK announced that it will continue its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the state assembly elections scheduled in six months time. The announcement was made by Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam before Chief Minister EPS endorsed it.
The announcement had a mixed reaction in both parties. The AIADMK has been preventing Tamil Nadu BJP to take out “Vel Yatra” in protest against the ridiculing of “Kanda Shasthi”, the hymn in praise of Lord Skanda.
The BJP has been bitterly attacking the AIADMK government for this, and rumours had begun doing rounds that it would jettison the regional party.
There are a few in the AIADMK who think that BJP might cost it precious votes among the minorities, and that many in Tamil Nadu are opposed to the national party.
There are observers who feel that the AIADMK has already lost the minority votes and thus feel it will be a win-win for both as it could help consolidation of Hindu votes.
Though neither Shah nor the BJP has said anything on this, the fact that the national party has not refuted the development is a proof that the alliance is almost a done thing now for the assembly elections.
Until Shah’s visit, the general view was both BJP and the AIADMK were headed for a split particularly with the EPS government ordering an investigation against Anna University Vice-Chancellor M K Surappa, seen as one of the cleanest educationists in the country.
Probably, state Higher Education Minister K P Anbalagan may have to pay a price for this indiscretion.
Amit Shah, who addressed his party leaders at a city hotel on Saturday night, has asked them to work for the party’s development and leave the rest to the leadership. He is also reported to have asked his partymen to focus on 50 assembly seats.
Talks now doing the rounds say that the BJP could contest anywhere between 25 and 40 seats in the assembly elections with the AIADMK promising a major share in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as per “MGR formula”.
Shah’s visit has also reportedly sealed the seat-sharing among the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) constituents with the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Tamil actor Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) on board.
Local media has reported that Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth’s message has been passed on to Shah through Tughlaq Editor and Swadesh Jagran Manch convenor S Gurumurthi when they both met for more than an hour on Saturday.
The NDA and BJP will also be getting a helping hand from M K Alagiri, former Union minister and expelled DMK leader who can make a difference in the southern region, particularly Madurai and its suburbs. One of his trusted lieutenants K P Ramalingam joined the BJP during Shah's visit.
These developments are seen as a major success of Shah’s visit to Chennai.
Of more concern to the opposition, particularly the DMK, should be that this time around, the NDA might not be found wanting as in 2019 when the latter was drubbed in the Lok Sabha polls.
Political observers say that Shah’s statements during his visit have rattled the DMK.
There are rumours that the BJP is out to settle the score against the DMK and its president M K Stalin, particularly for their #gobackModi campaigns whenever the Prime Minister had come to Chennai.
Probably, Shah indicated some tough days ahead for the DMK with his remarks that “dynastic rule and corrupt governance” and comparing it with the AIADMK rule of the late M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa.
His remarks that “only democratic forces will prevail” and a reminder about the 2G scam, some observers say, are warnings for the DMK.
That Shah’s remark against DMK has drawn a prompt response from Stalin is a fair enough indicator that things have begun to hot up in Tamil Nadu politics and it may not be a smooth ride for the opposition as in 2019.
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