Chennai: Continuing his mission to form a non-BJP, non-Congress alternative at the national level, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao flew into Chennai on Sunday for a courtesy call on DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi and a long political chat over lunch with his son and DMK working president M.K. Stalin.
While the meeting with Karunanidhi lasted less than 20 minutes amid an exchange of pleasantries and presenting flowers to the 93-year-old stalwart, the lunch session with Mr Stalin was elaborate, not just the spread of culinary delicacies on banana leaf but the wide-ranging political discussion that followed. Both leaders later told reporters it was a “very delightful” meeting and more would follow for the good of the country.
Addressing a joint press conference, Mr Stalin said the Telangana CM had a long discussion with him “regarding the present political situation and ways to handle future political developments”. Saving Indian secularism, securing more powers and more funds for states, fighting for states’ autonomy and against the dictatorial attitude of the Centre were among the topics discussed, Mr Stalin said.
“Though this is the first meeting, we have decided to have such discussions frequently”, he said, adding that Mr Rao had promised to respond to his request for allowing the DMK to host the conference on state autonomy after consulting the others involved. Mr Stalin also clarified the present discussions focused on prevailing politics and the question of forging alliances would arise only during the elections.
On his part, Mr Rao made it clear he was not aiming at creating “any third front”. His concept was not just an alignment of political parties but “of the people” of the country. The efforts were towards making India stronger, with better economy and more opportunities for the youth, said the Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief, while sidestepping a question on whether he was projecting West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whom he had recently met, as the prime ministerial candidate in the 2019 elections.
“We have not proposed any third, fourth or fifth front, this so-called front is created by the media. We have never announced a third front... it is not a mere alignment of political parties but an alignment of the people of India, the masses and unemployed youth of India,” he said.
Hailing Mr Karunanidhi as “one of the tallest leaders” of the country, Mr Rao recalled their association in UPA-1 and expressed joy that the elder statesman had responded to his “vanakkam” (greeting). It is learnt that Mr Karunanidhi, who he is confined indoors due to health reasons, had smiled and raised his right hand in greeting when son Stalin introduced the VIP guest. Mr Rao said his meeting with Stalin was “very delightful ... we discussed so many things; things which have been happening for the last seven decades in the country”. This meeting was “neither the beginning nor the end and no decision had been taken... Across the nation there is a debate that there is a need for a qualitative change in governance of India, the politics of India”.
“So we have been discussing with so many leaders across the nation... Both of us (himself and Stalin) had a telephonic talk with Mamata Banerjee also, and we will be talking to so many leaders across the country,” Mr Rao said, adding these consultations would go on for two to three months. Mr Rao said he shared with Mr Stalin the strong view that India should be a secular country.
“The centralisation ... dictatorial trends” of successive governments seen in the last seven decades should go,” he said. Asked if the Centre “ignored” southern states, he shot back: “Where is the doubt about it?” The TRS chief said he had invited Mr Stalin to be the chief guest for the launch of a Telangana government scheme next month.
Asked if he would reach out to Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in his “secular” effort, Mr Rao quipped: “why not?” He added that he considered him his “best friend”.
Mr Rao, who will also meet potential investors in his state during his visit to Chennai, is due to fly back to Hyderabad shortly after noon on Monday.