Tamil Nadu

Analysis: AIADMK sends signals that it’s back to business with BJP

A Bharatiya Janata Party supporter wears the mask of a Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a public meeting in Coimbatore. File

A Bharatiya Janata Party supporter wears the mask of a Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a public meeting in Coimbatore. File   | Photo Credit: M. Periasamy

It’s keen on securing every single additional vote in view of national party’s present political strength, says expert

The ties between the AIADMK and the BJP, which saw several ups and downs in the last nearly three years, now appear to be steady.

The AIADMK, which gave the impression that it was drifting away from the BJP after their alliance was routed in Tamil Nadu in the last Lok Sabha polls, has quelled all speculations. This could be seen from the visit of Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar, perceived as an alter ego of Chief Minister and the AIADMK co-coordinator Edappadi K. Palaniswami, to the BJP State headquarters ‘Kamalalayam’ on October 5. He formally sought the BJP’s support to his party for the Vikravandi and the Nanguneri Assembly byelections, slated for October 21.

Though the AIADMK and the BJP faced the Lok Sabha elections in April-May as part of a multi-party front, the outcome in the State was something that the former found it extremely difficult to stomach. The AIADMK had to face the ignominy of its front getting only one of the 38 constituencies whereas its arch-rival, the DMK and its allies, walked away with the remaining 37 seats. Also, the ruling party was shocked as its vote share fell to 18.48% from 22 constituencies that it had contested from the 44.34% in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls under the leadership of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. To make matters worse, many of its senior functionaries including M. Thambi Durai, P. Venugopal and K.P. Munusamy had lost by huge margins. That the AIADMK government did not fall due to its decent performance in the bypolls to 22 Assembly constituencies was the solitary consolation.

The Lok Sabha results did not lead to the AIADMK and the BJP indulging in blame game but sections of the AIADMK believed that their party had to suffer the brunt due to the “anti-Modi” wave. Handlooms Minister O.S. Manian and former Minister S. Semmalai, a legislator since 1980, even went on record that it was only an “electoral adjustment” their party had with the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections hinting that the ties had ended. In the run-up to the election to the Vellore Lok Sabha constituency [held in early August], it was quite open that the AIADMK had adopted a “hands off” approach towards the BJP. Notwithstanding the continued assertions by the two parties that the BJP’s local-level functionaries had worked together with the regional party in the Vellore poll, no State-level BJP office-bearer was present in the campaign. The close margin with which the AIADMK had lost to the DMK in Vellore had even made many in the former to say in private conversations that it would be in their interest that the party continued such an approach in future too.

It was against this backdrop that the recent meeting of Mr. Jayakumar with the BJP’s senior leaders took place. This was preceded by Mr. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister and the AIADMK coordinator O. Panneerselvam broaching the topic of support with the BJP’s general secretary and in charge for Tamil Nadu P. Muralidhar Rao on September 30 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Chennai for a couple of official functions.

Immediately, this prompted the AIADMK’s critics including the DMK to accuse the ruling party that it had ‘surrendered’ itself to the national party. But Mr. Semmalai has got a counter point: “Did not the DMK take the support of the Congress or the BJP for byelections when it was in power in the State and either of the national parties in power at the Centre between 1999 and 2013?” Besides, the need did not arise for seeking an open support from the BJP for Vellore as his party’s objective at the time of Lok Sabha polls — making Mr. Modi Prime Minister again — had been achieved.

As far as the byelections are concerned, the AIADMK had requested every other ally to extend support. “That’s how you should see our action towards the BJP,” Mr. Semmalai rationalises, adding that the vacancy for the post of the State BJP unit was the reason behind the delay in his party’s request.

BJP’s former national vice-president L. Ganesan, in his recent interview with this paper (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/bjps-backing-will-help-aiadmk/article29612737.ece), said his party’s pre-occupation with organisational matters was the reason why it did not take part in the campaign for the Vellore poll.

G. Palanithurai, former professor at the Department of Political Science and Development Administration of the Gandhigram Rural Institute, says the two principal parties are viewing the byelections as part of their preparations for the Assembly polls, scheduled to be held in about 18 months. The DMK, by continuing to harp on the anti-BJP narrative, is under the impression that this will fetch the desired results now, as happened in the Lok Sabha polls. As far as the AIADMK’s bid to secure the BJP’s support is concerned, it is keen on securing “every single additional vote,” in view of its present political strength. In case the party wins the byelections, it will launch a propaganda that it has broken the “myth of the anti-BJP mood that has been sweeping” across Tamil Nadu, Prof. Palanithurai explains.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 4:47:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/analysis-aiadmk-sends-signals-that-its-back-to-business-with-bjp/article29646973.ece

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