Non-NDA top guns to converge at Karunanidhi's b'day bash
In what is being billed as Opposition show of strength, top leaders including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar are expected to share dais at an event to mark 60 years of DMK chief M Karunanidhi as a legislator here on Saturday.
Besides, the diamond jubilee celebrations of Karunanidhi's entry into the Tamil Nadu Assembly will also see the participation of Lok Sabha MP Derek B'Brien, who will represent TMC, CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI National Secretary D Raja, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar are also scheduled to attend the event.
Ironically, Karunanidhi's participation is still uncertain as doctors have not given him the nod to attend the function, scheduled to coincide with his 94th birthday. The nonagenarian leader is recuperating following a tracheostomy procedure in December last to improve breathing.
The event comes amidst parleys by non-NDA parties involving TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to field a common candidate for the Presidential polls due in July.
However, DMK Working President and Karunanidhi's son MK Stalin has denied his father's birthday bash will serve as a platform for the non-NDA parties to discuss the Presidential polls. He had earlier said Congress President Sonia Gandhi had already held discussions with him on the possibility of putting up a joint Opposition candidate. Incumbent Pranab Mukherjee's term ends in July this year.
A five-time Chief Minister, Karunanidhi made his debut as a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Kulithalai in then undivided Tiruchirappally in 1957 and has not lost a single election in his career.
Even during times his party faced routs at the hand of arch rival AIADMK, including in 1991 and 2011 where the late J Jayalalithaa led her party to stupendous wins, Karunanidhi had emerged victorious.
He presently represents his native Thiruvarur constituency in the 234 member Tamil Nadu Assembly.
Meanwhile, Kerala governor Justice P Sathasivan, Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and BJP state president Tamilisai Soundarajan greeted Karunanidhi on his long stint as a legislator. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wished the DMK leader on his birthday.
Lalu Prasad not to attend celebrations
RJD president Lalu Prasad will not attend the birthday celebrations of DMK chief M Karunanidhi in Chennai on Saturday, which is being seen as a major event to bring together non-BJP parties ahead of the presidential elections.
"Lalu jee is suffering from fever and hence will not be able to go to Chennai tomorrow," his close aide and MLA Bhola Yadav said on Friday.
Party spokesperson Ashok Sinha also confirmed Yadav's inability to go to Chennai on Saturday.
Both Prasad and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar were invited to the 94th birthday celebrations of the DMK patriarch by his daughter and party MP Kanimozhi.
Both leaders had accepted the invitation and Nitish Kumar even had talks with DMK working president Stalin in the presence of Kanimozhi.
Lalu Prasad's cancellation of travel plan to Chennai is being read in political circles as his unwillingness to be seen with Kumar, who had skipped a luncheon meeting hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on May 26 in which he himself was present.
Both RJD and JD(U) –the Grand Alliance partners –have, however, dismissed it.
"Lalu jee is not going to Chennai purely on health grounds on advise of doctors. There is nothing political in it," Sinha said.
JD(U) chief spokesperson Sanjay Singh too said, "Lalu jee is not going to Chennai on medical grounds and it's wrong to read any politics in this," Singh said.