TAMIL NADU

Advantage BJP, in alliance prospects

CHENNAI Dec. 4. By winning in three States out of the four, which went to the polls, the BJP has gained an edge over the Congress in prospects of alliance with regional parties for the Lok Sabha elections.

In Tamil Nadu, where the State BJP does not have any ties with the NDA ally, DMK, the results should provide a major boost for the party. Though the BJP leaders here have been appreciative of several programmes of the AIADMK Government, they have scrupulously avoided any joint action or programme with the ruling party. They have been critical of the DMK for sharing a platform with other parties, notably the Congress. The BJP has been critical of the agitation by the DMK, jointly with the Congress and Left parties, against the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which is a Central legislation.

Over the past couple of months, the DMK leaders have been not only voicing their concern at the State BJP leaders' pro-AIADMK pronouncements but clearly hinting at a reconsideration of the alliance for the general election. The party has formally opened a discussion on its fora, though it is in no hurry to decide.

As for the AIADMK, the Chief Minister and party general secretary, Jayalalithaa, recently told the Assembly that her party would work for a ``non-BJP, non-Congress'' alternative at the Centre, as both these parties ``had not done Tamil Nadu any good.'' The AIADMK has been very supportive of the BJP at the Centre and has voted in favour of some crucial Bills, including the controversial POTA. It abstained from voting on certain Opposition-sponsored motions to ensure that there was no discomfiture to the BJP. In spite of such help, the Centre and the Prime Minister, in the view of the State Government, were not acting in favour of Tamil Nadu on major and sensitive issues such as the Cauvery dispute. Despite repeated requests, the Prime Minister has still not convened a meeting of the Cauvery River Authority, of which he is Chairman, to discuss a distress-sharing formula. The State Government is also cut up with repeated interventions by the Union Environment Ministry, presided over by the DMK's T.R. Baalu in some of the mega-projects announced by the Chief Minister.

Ms. Jayalalithaa has also emerged the strongest critic of the Congress and its leader, Sonia Gandhi. Though the AIADMK aligned with the Congress in the last election, the ties broke down soon after and it may be very difficult for the two parties to work together again.

It was in this context perhaps that Ms. Jayalalithaa spoke in favour of a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative. But the Left parties promptly rejected the proposition and ruled out any truck with the AIADMK.

Now that the BJP has emerged on top in what is considered the ``semi-final'' before the general election, it makes the DMK choice difficult. Should the party remain ensconced in the NDA and accept the invitation to nominate a replacement in the Union Cabinet for the late Murasoli Maran? But there is also the feeling, in party circles, that the alliance with the BJP is denting the DMK's secular image. For that reason, they advocate an alignment with the Congress and Left parties.

It is now for the regional parties to play their cards right. The DMK may have to make up its mind first and that will mean the AIADMK making up its mind, in a way. If the DMK remains in the NDA, there will be a likelihood of a triangular fight in Tamil Nadu, from which the AIADMK hopes to gain. And if the DMK opts for the Congress front, the AIADMK will have a choice. As for the Congress and Left parties, they will stick together and will have nothing to do with any party which aligns with the BJP.

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