Matchmaking: On AIADMK’s alliance with BJP

The ruling AIADMK’s declaration on continuing its ties with the BJP for the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections was no surprise. With the Congress and the Left aligned with the DMK, the AIADMK needs all the electoral partners it can get. The Jayalalithaa strategy of taking advantage of a three-way split in votes is no longer possible. But by dispensing with conventional negotiations and internal consultations, and making the announcement after a single meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah, the party leadership has given the impression of being politically vulnerable to pressures from the party ruling at the Centre. Indeed, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami seemed keen to avoid any such impression. Just a day before the announcement, he told senior leaders that the party was not under any pressure from the BJP and need not feel obliged to anyone. The party mouthpiece had sharply criticised the BJP’s ‘Vetrivel Yatra’, a religious-political roadshow being conducted without necessary permission. Though Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam has described the ties as the “continuation of a victorious alliance”, the alliance made no impact in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The BJP’s 3.71% vote share mirrored the performances of some newer players. Since 2006, most BJP candidates have forfeited deposits in successive Assembly elections, with only a marginal increase in the vote share — 2.02% to 2.84%. Hence, it is only logical for some in the AIADMK to deem the national party an electoral liability. However, the AIADMK seems to be banking on the BJP’s heft as the dominant party at the Centre and hoping that the wide appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will extend to Tamil Nadu.

Also read: Announcement on alliance with BJP surprises many AIADMK leaders

The DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance, after its impressive gains in the Lok Sabha and rural local body elections, appears intact. The Congress and other allies are unlikely to ditch it. Naturally, the AIADMK would want to retain the ambitious PMK and DMDK and perhaps turn to the BJP for intervention, should the need arise. While the possibility of actor Rajinikanth floating a party appears remote, if the BJP eventually gets him to back the ruling alliance, it would be a bonus for the AIADMK, and could offset anti-incumbency. The help the BJP could extend, if V.K. Sasikala, the jailed aide of Jayalalithaa, chooses a political role upon her release in January 2021, might have been another factor. In addition to these, central assistance to deal with COVID-19’s economic implications would be crucial before polls are notified. While all these could help in the short term, the party may have to play its cards carefully during seat sharing or else risk being overrun by the BJP in the long term. The AIADMK cannot afford to be seen as anything but the dominant partner in the alliance.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 12:24:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/matchmaking/article33163608.ece

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