The BJP-led six-party alliance’s hopes to become a game changer in Tamil Nadu look far-fetched as the AIADMK, the DMK and the Congress hold on to their vote shares
Having driven a hard bargain over a week to save his party’s alliance in Tamil Nadu, BJP president Rajnath Singh could savour a celebratory moment in Chennai on Thursday. But striking an alliance in the State may just be a starting point for a party looking for solid support for its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, in new territories.
The “rainbow alliance” the BJP eventually achieved by striking a seat-sharing deal with five regional outfits — the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), the Indiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK) and the Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK) — looks formidable on paper
More so, when parties with deeper roots in Tamil Nadu — the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Congress and the main Left parties — are going it alone. The six parties in the BJP front can pool their strengths to garner a sizable vote share. BJP leaders say the vote share of each ally will get bigger with the “Modi factor.”
Mr. Singh’s declaration, after clinching the alliance, that “this is a historic moment for not only Tamil Nadu but also the entire country” is reflective of the upbeat mood in the BJP camp. However, sewing up a “formidable” alliance, when driven by predominantly caste equations, is a “necessary but insufficient” condition to win more seats in the State’s Dravidian political milieu.
Given these parties’ performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the joint vote share of the DMDK, the PMK, the MDMK and the BJP comes to 22.7 per cent. The DMDK went alone and polled 10.3 per cent. Two other parties were then part of the AIADMK-led alliance.
The BJP contested only 12 seats and got a 2.3 per cent vote share.
The BJP front leaders’ confidence that the simple arithmetic, when extrapolated to 2014, would get them past the individual vote share of the DMK, the AIADMK and the Congress (25.09, 22.88 and 15.03 per cent respectively in 2009) and help them pick up more seats may at best be a fond hope. The “Modi impact” is factored in to bring in the additional votes to make the 2014 election a “game changer” in the State, the BJP’s poll managers say.
But on the ground, whether this conversion will automatically take place is a million-dollar question facing the BJP now for the simple reason that the two main Dravidian parties are robustly holding on to their vote shares and the Congress has a silent support-base in the State, particularly in a Lok Sabha election.
Even if making Mr. Modi Prime Minister is the sole objective of forging the BJP-front, as the PMK leader and former Union Minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, put it, the effectiveness of the alliance’s chemistry is still to be seen. The “deflection effect” of even smaller players not in the alliance — the Aam Aadmi Party, for instance — is an unknown.
Already, there is heartburning in the PMK about not getting the entire Vanniyar belt, spread across northwest Tamil Nadu, for itself, leave alone its having to share its electoral spoils with the Vijayakant-led DMDK, which was allotted the largest share of 14 seats. Further, the Vaiko-led MDMK and the DMDK have been “wary cousins” for long.
These factors make political analysts sceptical of intra-front transfer of votes taking place to give the BJP alliance an edge across the State. The battle here is thus still wide open, and Tamil Nadu contributing a good chunk of seats to the NDA’s national kitty, as it happened in the 1998 and 1999 polls under vastly different circumstances, is not so certain after all.