It’s fine balancing as Stalin set to visit Delhi again to meet Union Ministers

Stalin sent a conciliatory note to Union Ministers in Delhi explaining why he had not met them. He intends to maintain cordial ties with the Centre, even as he stays politically close to his secular allies

MK Stalin, Tamil Nadu, BJP, AB Vajpayee, alliance
In his letter to the Union Ministers, Stalin has said that he's looking forward to the support from the Union government for TN's key projects that include thwarting the Mekedatu Dam planned across the Cauvery by Karnataka government

Close on the heels of his return to Chennai after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has written to all Union Ministers that he will visit Delhi again and meet them.

This unprecedented communication to all Union Ministers comes in the wake of speculation over the reason for not meeting any of them during his first visit to Delhi, after taking over as Chief Minister (CM) of Tamil Nadu.

During their visit to Delhi, Chief Ministers usually meet key Union Ministers, apart from meeting the Prime Minister, to discuss projects of importance to their state or pending issues like clearance of financial dues. Therefore, the buzz before Stalin’s visit was that he may meet finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to seek speedy clearance of Tamil Nadu’s dues and speak to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to seek more COVID-19 vaccine doses for the southern state.

However, Stalin met only Modi last Thursday (June 17) and returned to Chennai on the next day, Friday, leaving tongues wagging about the Tamil Nadu CM not having met a single Union Minister during his Delhi visit.

Before the CM’s visit to Delhi, representatives of the Tamil Nadu government were in touch with the offices of several Union Ministers for fixing up meetings. At least two Union Ministers had indicated probable timings for the meeting, but the other side pulled back instead of confirming appointments. Therefore, political observers started whispering that CM Stalin had no interest in pursuing Tamil Nadu’s case with Union Ministers.

Also read: The strong political and economic messages from Stalin’s Delhi visit

Pre-occupied with Assembly Session

The Tamil Nadu CM has now sought to put all speculation to rest by communicating to the Union Ministers that he had to return to Chennai in the context of the forthcoming Tamil Nadu Assembly session. Governor Banwarilal Purohit is scheduled to address the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Monday (June 21), followed by the first Budget Session of the Stalin government.

The entire Budget for 2021-22 is to be presented and the DMK Government is likely to start with the process of taking up its key election promises.

Before the Assembly election earlier this year, the Edappadi Palaniswamy government had presented an interim budget and the Stalin regime is now giving finishing touches to the full budget for 2021-22 that arrives at a time of crisis caused by COVID-19 and lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

Nuanced conciliation

The communication to the Union Ministers assumes political significance too since Stalin had met Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on Friday before returning to Chennai. On Thursday night CPI’s D Raja and CPM’s Sitaram Yechury called on Stalin at the Tamil Nadu House in Chanakyapuri, after the CM’s meeting with Modi.

The political signal during Stalin’s Delhi visit, therefore, was that he continued to bond closely with his ‘secular’ allies, after taking over the reins of the state.

The nuance in the communication is in separating administration from politics –the State government wants to work closely with the Union government, while the DMK continues to be allied strongly with the Congress, Left and a host of other parties that are opposed to the BJP.

Governance matters

Stalin has mentioned in his letter to the Union Ministers that his meeting with the Prime Minister was to his satisfaction and he was looking forward to the support from the Union government for key projects of Tamil Nadu that include thwarting the Mekedatu Dam planned across the Cauvery by the Karnataka government.

The CM had detailed a long list of 25 demands in the memorandum he had submitted to the Prime Minister that included decades-old issues like retrieving the Katchatheevu island near Rameswaram that was ceded to Sri Lanka, and burning issues like the exemption to Tamil Nadu from NEET that is even supported by AIADMK, a BJP ally. While Stalin did not mention that the Prime Minister accepted any of the demands, he emphasised that Tamil Nadu government would push for these demands relentlessly.

Also read: DMK chief MK Stalin meets Sonia, Rahul

Interestingly, the CM was accompanied by his wife Durga Stalin during his Delhi visit. This was in contrast to former CM Edappadi Palanisamy and O Pannerselvam, who visited Delhi with their close political aides. In fact, Durga Stalin visited Sonia Gandhi’s residence along with Stalin and the bonhomie between the two families was evident in the way Rahul Gandhi drove down to 10 Janpath to receive the Stalin couple.

Big Splash in Delhi

The Tamil Nadu CM’s visit had attracted a lot of attention in Delhi since he was a prominent Opposition leader, who had established complete political dominance over a large state that scores high in terms of development. By winning big in the 2019 Lok Sabha as well as the 2021 assembly elections, Stalin has put paid to BJP’s hopes of emerging as a major player in Tamil Nadu that is dominated by the Dravidian parties.

DMK is the third largest party in Parliament now and its MPs were present in full strength to welcome Stalin last week in a huge show of strength. In addition, Tamil Nadu’s Water Resources Minister Durai Murugan was also in Delhi to lend weight to the DMK supremo’s first visit to Delhi as CM.

Stalin’s first stop in Delhi was a visit to the upcoming DMK office complex in the national capital and he returned to Chennai with just two big meetings – first with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday and then with the Gandhis on Friday.

Going by his promise, Stalin’s next visit to Delhi is likely to be different and hopefully his pitch for Tamil Nadu’s key demands will gather momentum over cups of tea and reams of documents.