Modi seeks AIADMK support in Parliament
Not allowing protocol to stand in the way of political calculations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa at her Poes Garden residence on Friday, and held one-to-one discussions on the prevailing political situation and pressing issues concerning the Centre and the State.
The 50-minute luncheon meeting of the two leaders, whose personal equations date back to the period before Mr. Modi became Prime Minister, took place without other functionaries of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or the Tamil Nadu unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Ms. Jayalalithaa, who has not been keeping too well in recent days, went to the airport to receive the Prime Minister on his first official engagement in Tamil Nadu after assuming office last year. But she did not attend the engagement, the launch of the National Handloom Day, and instead nominated Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam, who read out her message on the occasion.
During the meeting at Ms. Jayalalithaa’s residence, Mr. Modi sought the support of the AIADMK for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation in Parliament.
Jayalalithaa raises Cauvery, Mullaperiyar issues with PM
Mr. Modi tried to allay the State Government’s apprehensions about the GST regime.
The AIADMK had recorded a dissent note to the Rajya Sabha Committee on GST as it feared the State would lose close to Rs.10,000 crore with the introduction of the new tax regime.
Although the AIADMK is not part of the government at the Centre, it offers the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government support on crucial issues, often breaking ranks with the rest of the Opposition.
On GST, however, the party had opposed the Bill alongside the Congress and the Left parties. Mr. Modi is keen that the AIADMK returns to a mode of more positive interaction with the government at the Centre.
Ms. Jayalalithaa used the one-to-one meeting with Mr. Modi to raise some of the long-pending demands of the State, urging the Centre to intervene in favour of Tamil Nadu in disputes with neighbouring States.
In the memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister, she called upon the Centre to form the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee for the implementation of the Final Order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, to deploy the Central Industrial Security Force to guard the Mullaperiyar Dam in Kerala, interlink the peninsular rivers, and retrieve the Katchatheevu island from Sri Lanka and restore traditional fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen, among other things.
Modi’s signal to party leaders
Although issues of alliance for the Assembly election in Tamil Nadu next year did not figure in the discussions, by taking the effort to meet Ms. Jayalalithaa at her residence unaccompanied by State BJP leaders, Mr. Modi seemed intent on sending a political signal to his own party leaders.
BJP leaders have been ambivalent towards the AIADMK after the Lok Sabha election, often criticising the party on issues such as corruption and prohibition.
In Madurai on Thursday, BJP president Amit Shah had said it was unfortunate that Tamil Nadu found a place in the list of developed States as well as the list of corrupt ones in the country. In Coimbatore, he had said the State was number one in electoral corruption.
Mr. Modi, through his meeting with Ms. Jayalalithaa, must have hoped to temper the aggressive stance of his party toward a prospective alliance partner. At present, the BJP is without any major ally, as parties such as the MDMK, the PMK and the DMDK no longer consider the alliance forged for the 2014 Lok Sabha election as being in operation.