CHENNAI: A day after Navy warship INS Chennai was dedicated to the city of Chennai, the ship saw unusual political activity as about half of the MLAs from State boarded the vessel for a joyride. Many among the more than 100 MLAs, including 13 ministers, who boarded the warship early Tuesday morning, were unaware of the day’s programme. “We got the invitation only yesterday,” said R Kanagaraj, Sulur constituency MLA, who arrived from Coimbatore on Tuesday morning.
Most of them were accompanied by their family members, including Health Minister C Vijaya Basker, who is being grilled by Income Tax officials over unaccounted money being distributed during the R K Nagar by-elections. Basker brought his little daughter along.
It was Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar who was managing the show and answering all media queries, be it the political connotation over the trip or the issue of merger. “There is no political connotation over MLAs’ day at sea. We want merger between both factions,” he said. However, he avoided queries pertaining to any change in the party leadership. “It is not a fit topic for discussion on the ship,” he said.
Revenue Minister R B Udhayakumar said this is his first trip on such a massive ship. “It is not an entertainment trip,” insisted the minister. Textiles minister O S Manian snapped at rebel leader and former chief minister O Panneerselvam, saying how could he demand a probe over former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s death. Most of the cadre are unaware over what could be the next plan of action after the day at sea. “We are awaiting further instructions,” said Kanagaraj.
The frigate sailed 40 nautical miles and participated in sea exercises with two other Indian Navy vessels, INS Ranvir and INS Sumedha. Most of the MLAs felt seasick and some were tired, but their family members had fun. Women MLAs were struggling to be on their feet. By noon, the energy levels of the politicians dipped. Around 3.30 pm INS Chennai came back to the port and the tired MLAs took leave. The MLAs belonging to OPS faction and DMK MLAs were not present as invitation was allegedly not extended to them.