After a bit of dithering, the AIADMK has decided to take in its own hands its own fate. As we had written , a formal divorce between the two could be the best course for both for varying reasons.
It is good that the former Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy-led AIADMK has chosen this path and shown that it is not ready to be pushed around. The bickering between the so-called allies was getting nasty and the words exchanged were embarrassing, even though in politics that particular emotion has no real meaning.
Now this makes the Tamil Nadu political scene that much more interesting as it is rife with myriad possibilities. More than anything else, it is time for the AIADMK to set its splintered house in order.
While officially Edappadi is firmly in saddle, and the party is in his tight grasp, the fact is the party's traditional vote-bank is possibly split among it, the Sasikala-TTV Dinakaran combo and the rump that OPS (the former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam) holds on to. Sasikala-TTV and OPS sway may be miniscule but their nuisance value is disproportionately high for the AIADMK.
Walking on out the BJP was, in a sense, the easier task before Edappadi. His biggest challenge may be in consolidating the AIADMK voters. For that he has to win over the mighty miffed Sasikala and Dinakaran.
It cannot be denied that they had been relatively quiet only due to Edappadi's hitherto good offices with the BJP central leadership. That is now gone, and Edappadi has to fend for himself. Sasikala and Dinakaran, it is no secret, were smarting to have a go at the former Chief Minister. They will be eager to regain their lost ground and they may see the current situation as an opportunity.
But Edappadi's political smarts have been underrated, and that has worked to his advantage. Notwithstanding the oily way he rose to the top, the man does have spunk and shrewdness that others don't easily credit him with. He has to put that to use and bring around Sasikala and TTV. OPS may be a less of a bother if Edappadi manages to keep at bay Jayalalithaa's one-time confidante.
Edappadi sure has his task cut out, but a bulk of the steadfast followers of Jayalalithaa still see him as the true inheritor of her political legacy, and that means it is advantage Edappadi within the scheme of things in the AIADMK ecosystem as they exist now.
And sans the BJP in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK is a politically free bird, and that should be liberating in many ways. It is a fresh opportunity and potentially can be a case of now or never.
Annamalai has to walk the talk
So what of the TN BJP? To be sure, it must be sobering for it as one of its trusted allies has chosen to exit over political issues as opposed to, say, seat-sharing or election talks. But it is also a moment of opportunity for it. For a party that speaks against the diabolism of Dravidian ideology, now is the occasion to go for the jugular.
The AIADMK has laid the blame of exit at the door of TN BJP leader Annamalai and his brusque ways. Annamalai has brought to the table a firm and ram-rod straight approach. But his brief was to grow the party in the South, mollycoddling the allies was not in his ambit.
If reports are to be believed, one of the demands of the AIADMK leadership, when it met with the BJP top brass in New Delhi, was to remove Annamalai from his post. But the BJP apparently rebuffed that request and instead chose to back its own in the State. So that is a strong vote of confidence for Annamalai.
In turn, he must show that he is worthy of the faith reposed on him. To be sure, he has put in the hard yards in the State. There is a feeling that his approach has made the party grow in Tamil Nadu. But everything will be otiose if the party doesn't poll respectable votes.
It will also be interesting to note what Annamalai's gambit would be now in terms of allies. Whether he wants to go for a complete break from the past and choose to go practically alone --- a high-risk strategy --- or try and cobble up a small alliance group possibly involving the likes the DMDK, the PMK, Puthiya Tamilagam, is something that remains to be seen.
The other alliance partners of the NDA also have to decide on the road they would want to travel. Stay with the NDA? Tag with the AIADMK? Or possibly switch camps to the side of the DMK? Or work out a new alliance bloc? The possibilities are endless.
DMK caught in a cleft stick
A reading can be made that the AIADMK-BJP divorce has the potential to affect the DMK most. The knee-jerk and ill-at-ease responses from many of the DMK type handles on social media platforms already reflect the early jitters in the Stalin-led party.
In the post Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa political field in Tamil Nadu, the narrative has skewed. The DMK has managed to paint the BJP into a corner as a north Indian party. The latter too has played into the hands of the Dravidian party by attempting some maladroit moves that did not endear itself to the larger populace. In the event, the DMK, even though it did not enjoy an overwhelming sweep, pulled off one in the State Assembly election, by tainting the AIADMK by association.
If you vote for the AIADMK, the 'BJP will sneak in' was the DMK's mantra. And it is the message that it has been drumming loudly ever since it came to power in the State in 2021. Now that card is impossible to encash against the AIADMK. This will certainly put the DMK on the backfoot. Its bigotry will be shown up in stark relief easily. The sanatana dharma jibes may not work politically in the State anymore.
Also, with the AIADMK breaking free, the alliance partners of the DMK can feel emboldened. The existing main allies of the DMK --- the Congress, the Left parties and the VCK --- have so far been quiet at the latest developments. But they sure have more elbow room for maneuverability. Elsewhere, Naam Tamilar Katchi's (NTK) Seeman has welcomed AIADMK's decision and spoken about a Congress-free and BJP-free alliance group.
The Congress and the Left parties are no big forces in Tamil Nadu, but aligned in the right arithmetical group they can be of nuisance value for the DMK. The VCK too can flex its muscles now. These allies have the potential to drive a hard bargain when the election talks hove in the air. Also, the voice of opposition from the AIADMK will also now ring more credible.
Stalin and his team have to come up with a fresh strategy to not only counter the AIADMK, which will be raring to go, but also try and hold on its own existing allies. And that looks a daunting task especially in a situation when dissatisfaction about its governance is rife in the State.
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