With a total of 50 MPs in both the Houses of the Parliament, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa may soon be part of the Union Cabinet as the BJP and AIADMK seem to be more cordial these days.
Expectations, meanwhile, are high in political circles ahead of her meeting with Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday. The meeting is likely to further Jayalalithaa's agenda to have a greater say in the functioning of the Centre, mainly in matters concerning Tamil Nadu.
Yes, Jayalalithaa’s serious bid to move from Poes garden in Chennai to 7, Race Course Road in New Delhi is slowly shaping up. In a first step towards realisation of that goal, she will be in Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday.
The meeting is scheduled to take place at 4.45pm, while senior minister’s in Modi’s cabinet are likely to pay her a visit, earlier in the day, according to sources.
Apparently, the BJP ministers like Piyush Goyal and Nitin Gadkari who went overboard criticising her for her "inaccessibility" do not talk about Tamil Nadu anymore.
Tamil Nadu’s BJP leader Tamilisai Soundararajan, who once went hammer and tongs against Jayalalithaa during the election campaign has now toned down her vociferous comments.
“The reason is Prime Minister congratulating Jayalalithaa on her victory and the new emerging relationship between the BJP and the AIADMK,” say sources in the BJP.
With 37 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 13 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, her party is now the third largest in the Parliament, a number that is very crucial for the ruling BJP for passing certain important bills. “Amma now wants to elevate our party to be the third biggest party in India, after the BJP and the Congress,” says a AIADMK senior.
It could be recalled that during her early years in politics, she was perceived as a street fighter struggling to inherent the legacy of MGR.
On December 25, 1987, when she was forcefully thrown out of MGR’s gun carriage, she came back home and sent telegrams to the then Governor, DGP and the Chief Secretary telling them about how she was manhandled and the injuries she sustained due to that. But she vowed to carry the message of Anna and MGR to the people.
“When Anna died MGR was only the treasurer of the DMK, number four in the party. Now without MGR, as a propaganda secretary, I am number five,” she said in an interview, a day after MGR’s death.
Besides raising to number one position from number five within the party, she is now one of the most powerful women leader in contemporary politics in the country.
From a bright school student at the Church Park convent in Chennai to the most powerful woman politician from Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa’s public career is a long and chequered one.
Now 29 years later, she is the sole inheritor of MGR's legacy and vote bank. In fact she is bigger than MGR. Enthralled by her charisma, enchanted for her fair skin and good looks and overwhelmed by her benevolence her party cadres hail her as the revolutionary leader, respect her, adore her and worship her as Amma (mother) of the state.
And now, after MGR, she is being hailed by her party men as the only leader to have scripted a massive victory by winning Assembly polls for second consecutive term.
“Our Amma is always benevolent. Her strategies have once again proved a big victory for us. AIADMK is the only party in the state to have the people support and the third largest party in the Parliament. No other regional leader is as strong as Amma,” says AIADMK spokesperson C.R. Saraswathi.
Unlike her mentor MGR who was able to win only two MPs in 1980 in an alliance with Janata Party and Congress then, she has taken the AIADMK to a single largest party with no alliance partners, recalls senior journalist Durai Karna. It was in 1980, when AIADMK under MGR won only two MPs, DMK leader M. Karunanidhi wrote to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi saying MGR had lost people’s confidence. Apparently, AIADMK under MGR had a maximum of 18 MPs in 1984.
Of course, hoardings with the slogan “from Fort. St George to Red Fort,” are missing these days in the streets of Chennai. But AIADMK cadres continue to nurture their Amma’s big role in Delhi and her Prime Ministerial ambitions.
“She had always had national ambitions and she will continue to nurture the same,” says political analyst Raveendran Duraisamy.
Unlike during the Vajpayee regime in 1999, Jayalalithaa will not rub the Centre on the wrong side this time, but will sail along with them to extract the best she could for the welfare of her party and for the welfare of the state, in turn for her support in the Rajya Sabha.
She will ensure a cordial relationship with the Centre. The BJP, meanwhile, which is trying hard to strengthen the NDA and achieve a Congress-free-India, will try to convince Jayalalithaa to join the NDA.
Jayalalithaa who is not very keen on joining the NDA and being a part of the Cabinet, is expected to seek for a generous financial package for the state, like how the Modi government supported her Andhra Pradesh counterpart N. Chandrababu Naidu.
Also in the request list will be her usual set of demands- the linking of the peninsular rivers, the Centre’s intervention in Tamil Nadu’s river disputes with Kerala and Karnataka, reclamation of Katcha Theevu island from Sri Lanka to establish fishermen’s rights in the Palk Bay and an end to ban on the bull-taming sport Jallikattu and of course a big financial package for the welfare of the state.
However, Jayalalithaa’s 17-year wait to be powerful in the Centre, will further grow as there is no strong opposition in the state. Sources further say that she would strategise in the next one year for a big role in the Centre, by bringing together all the regional satraps.
Consider this: there are six major states that account for 54 percent of all the Lok Sabha seats and play a determining role in every elections. With a multi-cornered contest in these states and the regional parties being strong, the national parties- BJP and the Congress- by all probabilities can be reduced to small players.
This could well mean an advantage for Jayalalithaa. After the BJP and the Congress, like in 2014, she will be the third largest party in the Centre, thereby fulfilling her PM ambitions.
“This is a very farfetched calculation. But as an aggressive leader right from the days of an actor to being the recent consecutive victory, Jayalalithaa had always been ambitious and this time too she will aim for the next big slot,” Duraisamy points out.
Sources say that she might even consider being part of the Cabinet, if being offered lucrative portfolios as the BJP also needs her support in the Upper House.
And in the state too, after scripting a big comeback, she had kept her promises. Right from her promise on phased prohibition to nutritious breakfast for children in government schools to the 4500 ton raw rice for gruel in Mosques, she wants to ensure that she is always hailed as the leader of the masses.