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OPINION | BJP Seems to be Looking at Options Beyond AIADMK in Tamil Nadu

Modi was known to be a close friend of the late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. She attended his swearing-in as the CM of Gujarat, and Modi also returned the courtesy. After becoming the PM he even visited her for a luncheon meeting.

Sampath Kumar |

Updated:January 9, 2018, 5:38 PM IST
OPINION | BJP Seems to be Looking at Options Beyond AIADMK in Tamil Nadu
PM Narendra Modi meets DMK chief Karunanidhi at the latter’s Gopalpuram residence in Chennai on Monday. (@kalaignar89/Twitter)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to the ailing DMK president M Karunanidhi has created ripples in the political scenario of Tamil Nadu. Of late, DMK working president Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin has been mounting vitriolic attacks on the BJP and the Centre which, according to him, has been ruling the state by proxy.

Modi was known to be a close friend of the late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. She attended his swearing-in as the CM of Gujarat, and Modi also returned the courtesy. After becoming the PM he even visited her for a luncheon meeting. But, during the 2014 general elections, Modi wave had no impact on Tamil Nadu as Jayalalithaa contested the polls without any alliance and grabbed all the parliamentary seats in the state. “Modi or Lady?” she asked during her campaign and people voted in her favour.

With Jayalalithaa no more and Karunanidhi becoming totally inactive, the BJP feels time has come to try and rid the state of the two Dravidian parties and plant itself firmly in that space. Local BJP leaders have been making the party’s presence felt through protests and statements.

With the DMK firmly aligned with the Congress, the BJP has had no option but to look up to the AIADMK. After Jayalalithaa’s death, the BJP expected the AIADMK to come to its fold with its vote bank intact.

It is also believed that the BJP encouraged three-time chief minister O Panneerselvam to rebel against the tainted Sasikala, the close associate of Jayalalithaa, who was perceived to be extremely unpopular with the party cadre. The BJP felt Sasikala was more a liability with the people rightly or wrongly believing she was responsible for Jaya’s death.

But the BJP soon seemed to realise that Panneerselvam will not succeed in winning the support of all the MLAs of the party. It is said that it was at the insistence of PM Modi that both the factions came together, but trouble broke out from an unexpected corner with TTV Dinkaran, Sasikala’s nephew, taking away 21 MLAs to form a new faction.

That put the AIADMK government itself on shaky ground. The party is rudderless in the absence of a charismatic leader, there are allegations that the government remains paralysed and corrupt, every MLA appears to be too ambitious and it’s a Herculean task for Chief Minister Palaniswami to keep all MLAs in his fold. Opinion polls suggest that if elections are to be held now, it will be DMK all the way with Stalin at the helm.

Though BJP is considered in the state as a Hindutva and Hindi chauvinist party of upper castes and Brahmins, the party seems to believe that in the absence of charismatic leaders Narendra Modi can get more support than in previous years.The party is aware that in spite of negative propaganda, the common man did not react adversely during the demonetisation days.

Again, the DMK is known to change its stand to suit its convenience. It vehemently opposed Indira Gandhi during the Emergency but willingly formed an alliance with her in the election soon after.

The DMK which once described the BJP as the Pandara Paradesikal Katchi (party of beggars and monks) and opposed the party on several issues, including the Babri Masjid and Silanyas, did not hesitate to join the NDA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The camaraderie and warmth with which Stalin received the PM indicate that the visit has softened his attitude towards him.

With elections likely to happen anytime from now, Stalin would like to win at any cost.He has been waiting for the top post far too long and he may grab the olive branch if it’s extended by the BJP.

The BJP too may form a formula by which it may concede more seats in the state to the DMK. Other parties like the PMK, MDMK and DMDK may also follow as they too have had alliances with the BJP earlier despite their declared stand against Hindutva.

Rajnikanth, who has a sizable vote bank, is also known for his sympathy for the BJP.With some more film stars like Kamal Haasan and Vijay likely to enter state politics, it may perhaps split the opposition votes, which would be to the detriment of the DMK. This is where the DMK might need the BJP and Rajnikanth’s support.

Of course, it is too premature to speculate. The BJP’s anti-corruption image may get a beating if it aligns with the DMK. The special CBI court’s verdict on the 2G spectrum case may also influence its decision. However, as of now, it appears the BJP is disillusioned with the weak AIADMK and has started to think of other options.

| Edited by: Puja Menon
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