Prime Minister Narendra Modi held and lifted the hands of the two main ruling AIADMK leaders on Sunday, in a politically significant gesture ahead of the upcoming elections in Tamil Nadu. All three, PM Modi, Chief Minister E Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam, stood on the stage with their hands tied.
The leader of the opposition and head of the DMK, Deputy Stalin, strongly condemned the move, accusing the Prime Minister of “holding contaminated hands”.
“On the one hand, Prime Minister Modi speaks of a government without corruption and on the other hand, he is holding the hands of two people accused of corruption,” Stalin said in an interview with NDTV.
“Does PM Modi support corruption by holding the corrupt hands of EPS and SPO,” he asked, referring to the chief minister and his deputy.
“These are such corrupt hands. When the Prime Minister holds such hands, it raises doubt whether he accepts and supports corruption.”
The DMK accused the chief minister of his role in procuring public contracts for his relatives, of corruption in road tenders and of illegal wealth. The Madras High Court had ordered an investigation into the allegations, but upon a challenge by the AIADMK government, the order was stayed by the Supreme Court.
Mr. Panneerselvam or OPS has been accused of vast illegal wealth, some of which is hidden abroad.
When it was pointed out that no court had indicted either of these leaders, Mr Stalin said: “The court did not find them innocent either. It is still wrong that the Prime Minister Minister supports him. “
BJP’s Narayanan Tirupathi, reacting to Mr. Stalin’s criticism, said: “No case has been proven against EPS or PAHO. Stalin should be proud that the prime minister honors two Tamil leaders and holds their hands . “
He added: “Stalin is jealous.”
With Tamil Nadu’s election slated for May, the DMK has aggressively hit the streets with a campaign that focuses on what it calls AIADMK corruption in its two terms.
In 2016, the DMK failed to oust the AIADMK and its charismatic leader J Jayalalithaa remained Chief Minister. However, Jayalalithaa’s death the same year left the party in the throes of a leadership crisis and a gruesome power struggle, with his close associate VK Sasikala taking the reins.
After Sasikala was jailed for corruption, EPS and OPS put their feud aside, but the undercurrents remained. Sasikala’s recent release from prison has again sparked unrest within AIADMK.
The AIADMK did not do well in its first election after Jayalalithaa’s death; In the 2019 national polls, the DMK-Congress won 39 seats and the AIADMK won one.
The DMK hopes to continue the streak in the next national elections.