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Political or apolitical, MLAs enjoy a day at sea

The AIADMK political camp on Tuesday briefly shifted from Fort St George to Bay of Bengal. Who’s who of TN government was aboard INS Chennai, and that too when CM Edappadi K Palanisamy and AIADMK deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran were holding parleys separately with their close confidantes and O Panneerselvam was stating his demands in unambiguous terms for a possible merger.

Political or apolitical, MLAs enjoy a day at sea
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A missile being fired from INS Chennai during a mid-sea demonstration (Photos: Manivasagan N)

Chennai

The mid-sea naval exercises, demonstrating INS Chennai’s impressive weaponry, garnered much admiration from the state’s politicians. Apart from INS Chennai, four other combat vessels too participated in the naval exercise – INS Ranvir, INS Sumedha, INS Car Nicobar and INFAC T-83. The first demonstration saw the INS Chennai warding off simulated attacks by Fast Intercepting Crafts (FIC) boats, by firing warning shots. 

“If the crafts continued with hostile intent, the ship will engage the target through medium machine guns and heavy machine guns,” the officers said.

(Spectators rejoice watching a missile being fired from INS Chennai during a mid-sea demonstration off Chennai)

INS Ranvir, a Rajput-class destroyer, demonstrated the loading of an RZ-61 surface to air missile, which is used to intercept not only incoming aircraft but also missiles. The craft also showcased the firing of an anti-submarine missile, from an RBU-6,000 rocket launcher. The naval exercise also demonstrated the Station Keeping by Distance Line manoeuvre, where INS Ranvir and INS Sumedha, a Sarayu class vessel, with the Romeo Flag (a red flag with yellow plus), indicating an intent to transfer fuel, ammunition, stores or even personnel, with INS Chennai, attempted to do so mid-sea. 

Speaking to DTNext, D Jayakumar, Minister for Fisheries and Finance, said, “It is a politician’s duty to take the details of the Navy’s contribution to the public. What’s commendable is that the ship has been designed with indigenous technology. Since the ship is named after Chennai and the logo is that of a Manjampatti Bison, it is a moment of pride for all of us.” 

(INS Chennai)

State Handloom Minister OS Manian, who was among the ministers cooling their heels aboard the Navy destroyer, was the first to leave onlookers wondering if it were a repeat of ‘Koovathur.’ An outspoken Dinakaran supporter, Manian had no inhibitions telling media persons aboard the battleship that they were undertaking a political journey and there could be no precondition to the peace talks. “We will discuss politics mid sea,” was his response to queries pertaining to the prevailing political crisis in the ruling dispensation. 

Though a few wary leaders like health minister Dr C Vijaya Baskar did not want to even opine on the voyage, some MLAs were seen whispering about the fall out of last evening’s huddle at Electricity Minister P Thangamani’s residence. “Our bodies are on board the ship, but our minds are in Greenways Road and Besant Nagar. We consciously avoided media, because we knew we would be questioned about the merger. Hence, we kept a safe distance away from watchful cameramen and discussed how the talks could pan out. The sound of waves gave us good cover,” said an MLA requesting anonymity.  Another MLA even wondered how could they not discuss the political crisis even if it were aboard a Navy ship.

(MP catching a nap on board the vessel)

The sortie saw the participation of 106 MLAs, four MPs and 14 ministers. For many of the elected representatives, a day at sea on board the INS Chennai was a welcome break. Alexander V, an MLA from Ambattur, said, “This is a relaxing and interesting experience. Since we are engaged with public works daily, this is a change. Since this state-of-the-art destroyer is named after our capital city, this experience is even more special.”

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