Jayalalithaa presents wish list to Modi, makes no promises

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, with a wishlist and without revealing her mind on issue-based support to the regime, which is short of numbers to pass crucial legislations in the Rajya Sabha. Setting aside the frostiness that had crept into the BJP-AIADMK ties during the recent elections, the Chief Minister offered the Prime Minister the Tamil angavastram as a mark of respect.

On Monday, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had met the Prime Minister along with a delegation of party MPs in an attempt to extract special category status for his State. He also sought financial assistance for the expansion of the railway network there. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also made a courtesy call the same day.

The non-NDA Chief Ministers are testing the waters to see if the new Prime Minister is serious about his election pledge to take the States into confidence while taking crucial policy decisions and to not discriminate against those ruled by rival parties. To that extent, observers estimate that some at least may seek greater accommodation with the Centre.

Jaya meets PM Modi, doesn’t rule out support to Government in Rajya Sabha

However, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who has shown extreme hostility to the BJP and Narendra Modi, and new Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi whose leader Nitish Kumar has intense dislike for the Prime Minister, have not made courtesy calls to Delhi or indicated if they would seek a non-adversarial relationship with the Centre. However, the West Bengal Chief Minister is expected to meet the Prime Minister soon, with a delegation of her party MPs, and seek a moratorium on interest payments to outstanding loans and a financial bailout package for the State. It may be recalled that in the initial stages of his election campaign, Narendra Modi had expressed sympathy for the moratorium demand, but later sharpened his attack on the Trinamool Congress after ‘Didi’ made persistent personal attacks on him.

Jayalalithaa’s meeting with the Prime Minister was delayed for a couple of hours owing to the sudden death of Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde in a road accident on Tuesday morning. Speaking to mediapersons later, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister said AIADMK has no plans to join the NDA and that the matter of issue-based support lay in the future. The AIADMK has 10 members in the Rajya Sabha and its support would be helpful to the ruling party.

Jayalalithaa did not attend Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony on May 26, to protest against the invitation to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is considered as responsible for atrocities against Tamils in the last phase of the war against the LTTE. But before arriving in New Delhi, President Rajapaksha ordered the release of all Indian fishermen arrested for straying into Lankan waters. On Tuesday, he again ordered the release of 29 fishermen arrested some days ago for allegedly trespassing in Lankan waters, as a goodwill gesture to the new Indian regime. This defused one of the issues that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister was expected to raise with the Centre, though she claimed that 33 fishermen had been detained.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister claimed that she had not asked for any special package for the State, but had emphasised the need for a Cauvery Management Board as a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the State received its rightful share of water during the year. She also submitted a memorandum on the Mullaperiyar dam issue and stressed the need to expedite the setting up of a supervisory committee as ordered by the Supreme Court, and allocation of 15 per cent power to the State. She said the Prime Minister had promised to look into the issues and is going to send three Ministers to the State to examine matters in detail.

PM Modi welcomes Telangana, assures full support to new Government

Observers say that in keeping with his campaign pledge, the Prime Minister will frequently interact with all Chief Ministers and try to forge a working relationship with the regional parties in order to shore up strength in the Rajya Sabha, where the National Democratic Alliance is woefully short of numbers. A key component of his diplomatic strategy will be to prevent the Biju Janata Dal, AIADMK and Trinamool Congress from ganging up against his Government in either House.

For this reason, the States can expect to have some of their genuine concerns addressed. For now, however, the expectation in certain political quarters that either the BJD or AIADMK would join the NDA in return for some Ministerial berths has proved to be premature. Informed sources said that neither the Prime Minister nor the BJP could ditch allies like Vijaykanth, Vaiko, Ramadoss and others with whom the party went to the polls recently. Hence, a formal alliance is ruled out for now.

However, Jayalalithaa is expected to keep in mind the fact that under the UPA, Congress had ensured that Central Ministers do not interact with the Chief Minister, or even make courtesy calls on her, simply because the DMK was an ally. In its brief tenure in office, however, the BJP-led NDA has had important Ministers like Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Nirmala Sitharaman reach out to her. Hence, though she and her party boycotted the swearing-in ceremony on May 26, Jayalalithaa took care to send a warm letter of congratulations to the Prime Minister, on reading which he is said to have promptly called her.

Jayalalithaa also met President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Sandhya Jain3 Jun 2014

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