V. Jayanth

Bid to woo communal, caste, social groups outside its influence

It is building up an electoral alliance for Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, even KeralaJayalalithaa hints at some more additions to her allianceThe party may be willing to spare at least another seven seats to smaller groupsAIADMK wants to contest at least 171, if not 180 constituenciesJayalalithaa is in touch with Left parties to forge a national alternative to Congress, BJP

CHENNAI: Starting from scratch, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is gradually building up an electoral alliance for Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, even Kerala.

Vote base

The objective seems to be to consolidate its vote base and simultaneously reach out to communal, caste and social groups that may be outside its influence.

The AIADMK was the first to firm up an electoral arrangement in Pondicherry, where it tied up with the Puduchery Makkal Congress of former Minister P. Kannan. Then came the understanding with the Dalit Panthers of Thol Thirumavalavan and, on Saturday, the prize catch of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). Lost in that development, perhaps, was the agreement signed with two Muslim parties - the Indian National League and the Indian Union Muslim League (Tamil Nadu).

AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa has hinted at some more additions to her alliance. The Thamizhaga Indira Congress (TIC), led by former TNCC president Tindivanam Ramamurthee, has expressed his intention to forge an alliance with the AIADMK. And the Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) in Kerala has had two rounds of talks with Ms. Jayalalithaa or her Cabinet colleagues.

"Parleys on"

These are on the record. But the AIADMK sources say there is "so much more activity going on behind the scenes." They say their leader is in touch with the Left parties, in keeping with her broad policy of trying to forge a national alternative to the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Left sources have ruled out any alliance with the AIADMK for the Assembly elections.

"It may or may not work out for the Assembly elections, but our leader is looking beyond, at the national scene, for the next elections to the Lok Sabha. She wants to build a third front at least in time for the next general elections," a party senior explains.

Strategy for State

Providing a background to the electoral equations that have taken place, he says: "We have consolidated the AIADMK's hold in the southern districts through this alliance with the MDMK. Our leader is now confident of sweeping that region. We are traditionally strong in the western region and our leader has an ace up her sleeve to wrap up the entire area. In northern Tamil Nadu, we have already demonstrated our strength in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts. The alliance with the DPI and an understanding with the TIC should further help us build on that strength in the region. All that needs to be done is to sew up the delta region. Our Government's performance in the post-tsunami and flood relief operations have certainly given us an edge. We are confident our leader will come up with a trump card very soon." The AIADMK functionaries do not want to go into the caste and communal factors at this stage. In the south, the ruling party has a hold on the Thevars and the MDMK should be able to deliver the Telugu-speaking and Naidu communities. The Dalits will not fit into that matrix. In the north, the DPI should be able to harness its Dalit base, while the TIK must at least be able to split the Vanniyar vote that the Pattali Makkal Katchi commands. If that is not enough, Ms. Jayalalithaa has accepted two of the Muslim League groups into her alliance and allotted them three seats together.

Flexible approach

As of now, she has released 47 seats to her allies. The party may be willing to spare at least another seven seats to smaller groups, and if there is another "prize catch," increase that quota by nine additional seats. Current plans point to the AIADMK wanting to contest in at least 171, if not 180 constituencies. But the numbers depend on the prospective allies, party sources emphasise.