The perception of a strong Narendra Modi wave has ended the prolonged isolation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tamil Nadu.
After a ‘decade of alienation’ that began in 2004, the BJP this time has managed to sew up a strong third front by pulling the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam into the NDA fold.
In many ways, the current situation has similarities to the late 1990s, when the party emerged as a visible force in the electoral scene here.
The BJP opened its account in the State by winning the Padmanabhapuram Assembly constituency in Kanyakumari in 1996, the same year it became the single-largest party at the national level.
Despite its failure to form the government at the Centre, the 1996 national performance made BJP a viable coalition option for parties in Tamil Nadu. The real breakthrough came when the AIADMK led by its general secretary Jayalaithaa agreed to an alliance with BJP in 1998.
The BJP managed to return three members to the Lok Sabha from Tamil Nadu. A year later, when it switched to the DMK alliance, it added one more to its previous year’s tally.
But after 2004, when the BJP-AIADMK combine was trounced in all 39 constituencies, the party remained insignificant in the State.
The presence of a strong Prime Ministerial candidate in Atal Bihari Vajpayee and a powerful anti-incumbency wave helped the party attract allies in the State in 1998. Both these factors have re-emerged in 2014 with Mr. Modi filling in as the PM nominee.
“The strong anti-incumbency has put the Congress out of favour. This has led to more parties gravitating towards the BJP,” says Lalitha Kumaramangalam, BJP national secretary.
Writer and political commentator A. Marx feels that the consistent weakening of the Dravidian ideology was providing space for right wing politics to expand in Tamil Nadu. Both the DMK and the AIADMK, he feels, are losing their core Dravidian characteristics.
“For the BJP, the process will have to be gradual. But as the Dravidian ideology weakens, people, especially the youth, would be looking out for an alternative. If the BJP could sustain the present coalition, it could expect better days,” he says.