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CHENNAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprang a surprise by calling on ailing DMK chief M Karunanidhi on Monday and inviting him to stay at his official residence in New Delhi to take rest.
The meeting of the political adversaries, more importantly between Modi and DMK working president M K Stalin, triggered speculation.
The meeting happened two days before the DMK’s anti-demonetisation agitations, scheduled for the first anniversary of the reform. It came as a shock to many in the AIADMK – whose ministers have been openly advocating a tie-up with the BJP – and the Congress, a long-time ally of the DMK.
Modi is visiting Karunanidhi for the first time after assuming office as PM, but his association with late chief minister J Jayalalithaa was well known. After becoming PM, Modi once visited Jayalalithaa at her residence for a luncheon meeting. Modi’s invitation to Karunanidhi to stay in his official residence left even senior DMK leaders surprised. They were at pains to discount any political significance to the meeting.
The visit to the Gopalapuram residence of the DMK patriarch was kept discreet till BJP national general secretary P Muralidhar Rao, in charge of TN, tweeted at 8.37 am, just an hour before Modi landed in Chennai. Modi spent 10 minutes at the house and met Karunanidhi’s ailing wife Dayalu Ammal also.
Holding Karunanidhi’s hand, Modi asked, “Will you come and stay in my New Delhi residence and take rest?” The DMK leader, who is speechless after tracheotomy last year, smiled and presented his book ‘Kuralvoviyam’, a commentary on Tirukkural (English version) by saint-poet Tiruvalluvar and Murasoli’s 75th anniversary souvenir-book. Modi later tweeted: “Met former Tamil Nadu CM, Thiru M Karunanidhi and enquired about his health.”
Met former Tamil Nadu CM, Thiru M Karunanidhi and enquired about his health. @kalaignar89 https://t.co/ybrMWnAWEc
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi)
The PM reached Gopalapuram at 12.15pm and was received by DMK working president M K Stalin and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, both children of Karunanidhi. Modi was accompanied by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Union minister of state for home Pon Radhakrishnan. BJP state president Tamilisai Soundararajan, a strident critic of the DMK, was among the first to arrive at Karunanidhi’s residence.
Kanimozhi’s mother Rajathi Ammal, Stalin’s sister Selvi and senior DMK leaders S Duraimurugan and TKS Elangovan were also present.
While leaving the house, Modi was seen holding Stalin’s hand, exchanging pleasantries with him and Kanimozhi. He waved to reporters gathered outside the house and a handful of BJP supporters, who raised slogans hailing him.
A few minutes after Modi left the Gopalapuram resi dence, Karunanidhi came out to the portico and greeted party cadres and journalists. He waved to the crowd and was wheeled back inside.
“We should not impute political motives to the meeting. Thalaivar’s (Karunanidhi) health has been improving. Several leaders have been calling on him. Similarly, the Prime Minister too came to meet him. Very soon Thalaivar will meet party cadres,” said Kanimozhi.
This is not the first time that Modi has sprung a surprise during his visit to Chennai. In 2015, after attending the National Handloom Day celebration, he met an ailing Thuglak editor Cho Ramaswamy at his residence.