Chennai: There has lately been some crossfire between the AIADMK and BJP camps in the Tamil Nadu NDA enclosure. It has led to speculation over what the BJP’s game plan regarding the southern state could be. Why has the national party been picking on the state leadership? Leading proponents of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, such as National Secretary H Raja and the newly appointed state president L. Murugan, have been critical of some actions of the Edappadi Palaniswami-led AIADMK government.
Take, for instance, the Vinayagar Chathurthi festival. Citing the Centre’s guidelines banning religious functions, the AIADMK government has reiterated its refusal to permit installation of Ganesh idols and asked people to celebrate the festival at home. The state government refused to budge even after the Tamil Nadu BJP unit leaders had met with Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami earlier this week asking the government to get them to allow idols to be placed across the state while issuing Standard Operating Procedure for the same.
This move by the ruling government has not gone down well with the state BJP whose President Murugan questioned if the AIADMK can allow the opening of liquor shops across the state, why can't it allow people to celebrate the Hindu festival. The BJP said it will back the Hindu fringe group Hindu Munnani’s decision to install Ganesh idols in the state.
While the Ganesh Chaturthi episode may have exposed the niggling differences, it was not the only one. Earlier, the AIADMK government had asserted that the two-language formula would not be altered at any cost, not even by the newly introduced National Education Policy. In another boiling issue, the All India Quota for OBC Reservation, the AIADMK took a stance decidedly in favour of the reservation.
To be sure, neither the AIADMK nor the BJP have openly expressed any displeasure. However, it was the BJP that first hinted at its interests in changing the dynamics of the AIADMK-BJP alliance. At a press conference at the party headquarters, BJP Vice-President VP Duraisamy said the national party would be the leader of the NDA alliance in Tamil Nadu, as opposed to the AIADMK which led the team in the 2019 Parliamentary polls. In an interview, BJP state president hinted that the BJP’s role as a running mate to the AIADMK could reverse closer to the 2021 elections.
Political analysts say even though the AIADMK is the NDA ally, it should soon look critically at its ties with the BJP, given the divergent stands taken by parties on critical issues. N Sathiya Moorthy, Chennai Head for policy think-tank The Observer’s Research Foundation, said: "The AIADMK cadre feel the Lok Sabha poll rout needs to be laid at the door of the BJP alliance, and other issues such as the demonetisation, GST, lynchings faced by the minorities, and the overall economic slowdown. Post-Covid19, the situation has worsened, and the AIADMK is wary even more of its alliance with the BJP. Palaniswami may now be in two minds, but unlike in LS polls, cadre pressure may increase if BJP makes 'unreasonable' seat share demands. At the end of the day, AIADMK's political positioning on issues like NEP, EIA and now NRA will be determined by those of the DMK and other regional parties...”
Observers say the BJP needs the help of a multi-party alliance to fight the Assembly elections in the state. "It is too premature to speak of their (BJP's) final game plan. BJP has very little chance if they contest alone. So they would need a big alliance to be part of. All their moves will be towards that only," Sumanth Raman said.
However, he added that crossfire between the IT wings of both parties can hardly be called a rift between both parties.
All said, it would be the attitudes of the central leadership of the BJP and electoral calculations circling around caste and dominant sentiment that will motivate alliances in Tamil Nadu, which is why these rumblings need not necessarily have a bearing on the final electoral alliances ahead of 2021.