J.P. Nadda, Rahul Gandhi to visit Tamil Nadu during Pongal as campaigning for the Assembly election gathers momentum

Published : January 12, 2021 18:22 IST

J.P. Nadda, BJP national president. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

Rahul Gandhi, former Congress president. Photo: S. Sudarshan

Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, will be in Tamil Nadu on Pongal day (January 14), giving a fillip to the Assembly election campaigns of the alliances they are part of in the State. The parties heading the two main alliance in the State, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), have already launched campaigns in the State though the election is about four months away.

BJP president J.P. Nadda, who could not visit Chennai in late-December after he was afflicted with COVID-19, will be here for a public function and to witness a Jallikattu event (a taming the bull event held alongside Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu). Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to arrive in Chennai the same day and will also witness a Jallikattu event.

Amit Shah cancels visit

Union Home Minister Amit Shah was scheduled to be in Tamil Nadu on Pongal day, and be the Chief Guest at the annual function organised by a Tamil magazine Tuglaq. But he cancelled his visit, and J.P. Nadda is taking his place. While no official reason for the cancellation was given, one source said that this was because the BJP was unhappy with the Tamil Nadu strategy, as drawn up by some Sangh Parivar elements in the State. These elements could not persuade superstar Rajinikanth to enter active politics, and the BJP, which had invested heavily in this idea, has been forced to change tack.

Nadda arrives in Tamil Nadu in the background of the BJP suddenly accepting Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami as the Chief Minister candidate for the alliance, ahead of the election. Though the BJP had hedged its bets on naming the Chief Minister candidate, Rajinikanth’s flat refusal to enter politics this week, has presented it with no choice. Palaniswami’s supporters in the AIADMK have been repeatedly pushing the BJP to name him as the Chief Minister candidate ahead of the election.

Rahul Gandhi is in Tamil Nadu against the background of the DMK’s belligerence towards its allies. There have been voices from the main opposition party demanding that candidates of allies (barring recognised political parties) contest on the DMK’s ‘rising sun’ symbol. This idea has been rebuffed by two of its allies, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Another suggestion aired by a few DMK leaders is that the party should contest as many seats as possible and not accommodate the demands of allies. Alliance partners have said that only after seat-sharing talks begin will they be in a position to understand how serious the DMK is on this issue. “It is common for all parties to talk like this. But once seat-sharing talks begin, these are likely to be sorted out, going by past experience,” said a leader, who did not want to be named.

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