Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Madurai on Sunday may shift the public’s focus to the BJP as the election season looms.
According to the party’s State president, Tamilisai Soundararajan, the PM’s scheduled rally in the temple town will be a “great show of our strength,” and will give a “fitting reply to those who keep on taunting us on whether we have any base in the State.”
Ahead of the rally, Mr. Modi will lay the foundation stone for an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Madurai. Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his Cabinet Ministers are expected to take part in the event.
A party event, scheduled later in the day, will be attended by BJP members from 10 southern parliamentary constituencies, excluding Kanniyakumari. As the party’s sole representative – Union Minister of State Pon. Radhakrishnan – is from this constituency, the Prime Minister will visit it separately, clarified Dr. Soundararajan.
Mr. Modi’s visit comes close on the heels of an appeal by Ramdas Athawale, chief of the Republican Party of India (A) and Union Minister of State, to T.T.V. Dhinakaran’s AMMK and the AIADMK to bury the hatchet and join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
On Friday, AIADMK coordinator and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam saw in the Prime Minister a “role model” for maintaining physical health and made an observation to this effect publicly.
There have been reports in sections of the media that the PMK, the DMDK and the Puthiya Tamizhagam may be part of a possible AIADMK-BJP coalition, despite repeated assertions by leaders of the AIADMK, the BJP and the PMK that such reports are speculative in nature and that nothing has been finalised.
What is evident is that the BJP is keen on boosting its footprint in Tamil Nadu, at a time when the State’s two dominant leaders – M. Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa – are no longer in the political scene. After all, the last time the BJP put up a modest performance in the State was 20 years ago.
It is against this backdrop that the BJP would be seeking to make use of the Prime Minister’s visit to its advantage. Mr. Modi is planning to visit the State again on two separate occasions in February. While it has been confirmed that he will go to Tirupur on February 10, it is not yet finalised whether he will have a third event nine days later in Kanniyakumari or Chennai, said Dr. Soundararajan.
The tentative schedule of Mr. Modi only goes to show how Tamil Nadu, with its 39 Parliamentary seats, is becoming increasingly important in the BJP’s scheme of things.