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After Sonia's lunch, opposition leaders to put up united face at Karuna's bash

June 02, 2017 19:48 IST

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 Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M Karunanidhi as a legislator in Chennai on Saturday.

Besides, the diamond jubilee celebrations of Karunanidhi's entry into the Tamil Nadu assembly will also be celebrated.

Apart from Lok Sabha MP Derek B'Brien, who will represent Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI National Secretary D Raja, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar are also scheduled to attend the event.

Meanwhile, Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad will not attend the celebrations due to ill health.

"Laluji is suffering from fever and hence will not be able to go to Chennai tomorrow," his close aide and MLA Bhola Yadav said.

Party spokesperson Ashok Sinha also confirmed Yadav's inability to go to Chennai.

Lalu and Kumar had accepted the invitation and the Bihar CM 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 the RJD and the JD-U -- the Grand Alliance partners -- have, however, dismissed it.

"Laluji 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, "Laluji is not going to Chennai on medical grounds and it's wrong to read any politics in this," Singh said.

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-National Democratic Alliance parties involving TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to field a common candidate for the Presidential polls due in July.

However, Karunanidhi's son 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 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 All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, 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 Bharatiya Janata Party 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.

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