CHENNAI: Desperate to make inroads into Tamil Nadu ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP national leadership is reportedly mulling the strategy of fielding Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman as its face in the State.Though the idea has been in the air for a while, recent developments have heightened speculations in this regard.Even as the party’s State leadership was in the dark, Sitharaman on Sunday last announced in Chennai that the Centre would cooperate if Tamil Nadu brought in an Ordinance on National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) exemption.
State ministers who were frequenting Delhi to lobby with various ministries there on NEET had met her along with many other leaders connected with TN, but not many expected the national leadership of the BJP would task her with breaking the news about the Centre’s position. It did not miss senior Congress leader P Chidambaram’s attention, who raised questions about the commerce and industries minister being involved in a matter related to medical education.Incidentally, it was Sitharaman who had first proposed the promulgation of a State Ordinance to make banned but popular bull sport jallikattu legal. The State government eventually took that route when jallikattu protests peaked earlier this year.
Though party leaders in the State claim ignorance about her projection, they agree that many of the issues relating to Tamil Nadu are routed mostly through Sitharaman now.Sources in BJP said party president Amit Shah is not quite happy with the performance of the present leadership in Tamil Nadu, and wants to take a series of measures, including infusing new blood. Many here expect that Shah, who is scheduled to visit Tamil Nadu from August 22, may appoint key persons to new posts and officially project Sitharaman as the party’s State face.
Born in Madurai and educated in Tiruchy, Sitharaman has close ties with Tamil Nadu, but is not part of any camp within the State unit of the party. Over the years, she has been seen as an efficient but quiet minister in the Narendra Modi government.