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Y.P. Rajesh
Thursday, Jun 5, 2014

Asia

Modi seeking support of Tamil Nadu leader

The Straits Times | Y.P. Rajesh | Thursday, Jun 5, 2014

An Indian court on Saturday convicted Jayalalithaa Jayaram, a former film star turned powerful politician, in a corruption case that has dragged on for nearly two decades.

INDIA - Prime Minister Narendra Modi is looking past the clear majority he has in India's Parliament by reaching out to a powerful state leader to partner his coalition, as he seeks to bolster support for the economic reform measures he is said to be planning.

Ms J Jayalalithaa, the chief minister of southern Tamil Nadu state, is due to meet Mr Modi today, the first time since he took office. The meeting is ostensibly to discuss issues concerning Tamil Nadu that need federal assistance.

However, officials of Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and analysts do not rule out political negotiations with Ms Jayalalithaa, who also heads her AIADMK party which emerged as the third largest in the elections with 37 MPs.

"Our fundamental principle is to work in partnership with every state and Tamil Nadu is no exception to that. The message of this government is that it is a bipartisan government," BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli told The Straits Times.

He did not commit himself on the possibilities of the BJP formally joining hands with the AIADMK but said "parties do talk to each other, and in national interest parties are bipartisan".

"Even we helped the Congress when we were in opposition. It is very rare for Parliament to be logjammed. If there is a crisis, one can always call a joint session of the two Houses," he added.

The BJP has 281 members in the Lower House of Parliament and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance have 55, taking their total to 336.

This number can go up to 338 if the party can nominate two Anglo-Indian members and secure their support in a chamber of 545 members.

However, the BJP and its allies have only around 60 seats in the 250-member Upper House of Parliament - and cannot push through laws that will allow higher foreign direct investment across sectors including insurance and pensions, tax reform as well as banking reform, among others.

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