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AIADMK Factions Show Signs of Imminent Alliance with BJP

Ever since Jayalalithaa’s death in December last year, her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the third largest party in India’s Parliament and the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, has seen its friends turn foes and leaders turn rebels. It has also seen the fall of those expected to stay at the helm.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:May 21, 2017, 10:08 AM IST
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AIADMK Factions Show Signs of Imminent Alliance with BJP
Former Tamil Nadu chief minister and leader of one of the AIADMK factions O Panneerselvam being greeted by his supporters at his residence in Chennai on March 14. (PTI Photo)

Chennai: Ever since Jayalalithaa’s death in December last year, her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the third largest party in India’s Parliament and the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, has seen its friends turn foes and leaders turn rebels. It has also seen the fall of those expected to stay at the helm.

As the state undergoes political transition, rumour mills are buzzing with the talks of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) entry into the field.

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The saffron party entered the game, at least in political theories and on social media, soon after the death of Jayalalithaa. Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) became chief minister, but soon the AIADMK split into two — one faction headed by O Panneerselvam aka OPS and the other headed by Sasikala, considered Amma’s closest confidante.

It was widely believed that OPS revolted against Sasikala because of support from the BJP. This theory was, soon, quashed by both sides.

That, however, was not the game changer.

Sasikala was soon behind bars in a disproportionate assets case, the party symbol was frozen, and a by-poll in RK Nagar, Jayalalithaa’s constituency vacated after her death, was postponed. Both factions decided to start talks of a merger, and EPS welcomed the move. But the merger allegedly came with a rider — Sasikala and her nephew Dinakaran were to be ousted from the party. EPS soon announced that too. However, nobody in public domain knows where the merger stands now. EPS is still the chief minister, and Sasikala and Dinakaran are in prison. OPS, however, has set the stage for another round of rumours.

OPS’s official Twitter handle, on Friday, posted that the faction would take a call on an alliance with the BJP after local body elections are announced. The tweet was later changed, with the party clarifying that “only after the local body elections are announced would we think of an alliance with any political party.”

How did talks of an alliance escalate at this rate? OPS, many believe, is worried that the EPS camp was aligning with the BJP. Hoisting of both AIADMK and BJP flags near Thirumangalam during Union minister Venkaiah Naidu’s visit was enough to unsettle OPS, say sources. A meeting between OPS and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was soon set up, after which his Twitter handle talked about the possible alliance.

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Has the time come for the grand entry of the saffron brigade into Tamil Nadu? Experts believe it has.

“Both the factions look desperate for an alliance and PM Modi wants both factions to merge so that the symbol comes with it. Modi has been backing OPS since the beginning,” said political observer S Murari, adding that the situation is similar to when Rajiv Gandhi wanted the two AIADMK factions, that had been created after MGR’s death, to merge.

“But at that time, Jayalalithaa stood her ground. And Gandhi lost out. This time around, the BJP is working aggressively to merge both factions. If people want change, they will vote for the new BJP-AIADMK alliance,” said Murari, adding that the recent public speech by Rajinikanth looks like the BJP’s attempt at showcasing his support for the alliance.

The biggest problem that the saffron party has faced and still does, many say, is the dearth of a strong face in Tamil Nadu.

“They don’t have a leader who appeals to the people in Tamil Nadu. Alliance is the only way it can hope of getting into the state Assembly. Merger of the AIADMK factions is imperative for the saffron party to succeed. It wants a joint AIADMK — strong enough to win elections, but not bold enough to take on the BJP,” said RK Radhakrishnan, associate editor at Frontline. His views are cemented by political observer Sumanth Raman, who said the only way the saffron party can even hope of a foothold in the state is by having a charismatic leader who appeals to the people of Tamil Nadu.

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The last time the BJP won a seat in Tamil Nadu was in 2011, when KR Lakshmanan won the Mylapore constituency. Other than that, the saffron party, in 2014, won Kanyakumari. But the state assembly still remains a dream for the party.

Would it finally enter Tamil Nadu in 2019? Or in 2021 when the state assembly polls are scheduled? Only the time will tell when the BJP flag will be hoisted. Till then, the party can only hope that OPS or EPS don’t set their foot down against a merger, like their beloved Amma.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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