It has been only two years since the incumbent All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK)-led alliance was handed a crushing defeat in parliamentary polls of 2019. The accepted wisdom now is that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) evokes negative emotions among wide sections of the Tamil population and the presence of this party in the ADMK's alliance pulled down the entire edifice.
Of course, it is also true that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy (EPS) was seen as someone more pliant to the demands and ideas of the central BJP.
ADMK has chosen - or has been made to choose - to continue its alliance with the BJP for the upcoming legislative assembly elections as well.
The BJP will contest only 20 seats, three seats less than the Pattali Makkal Katchi - another alliance partner that does not even enjoy a pan Tamil Nadu presence.
An alliance partner acting as the proverbial albatross around the anchor party's neck is not new to Tamil Nadu.
The main opposition party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), also had this issue earlier when it offered 60 seats to the Congress in 2011 and 40 seats in 2016 legislative assembly elections.
While the DMK did not get close to winning in 2011, it did grab a credible 89 seats in 2016 - it got here with a strike rate of 50 per cent, just enough to stay in the contest. But it's ally the Congress ended up losing 80 per cent of the seats allotted to it and cost the majority.
Had the Congress also managed a 50 per cent strike rate the alliance would have scored just eight seats short of majority.
But the similarities between a Congress's loss costing the DMK and a BJP pulling down the ADMK end here. Even so, the fact of the matter is that the BJP has been and is very likely to be an electoral liability for the ADMK - the party will repel more voters than it brings to the allies.
This does sound excessively harsh, especially if you're a BJP supporter. The one consolation here is that the national party's bad performance and inability to build an electoral base is not entirely the party's fault.
With excessive rhetoric-ridden media coverage of protest movements, a history of DMK ecosystem's Dravidian propaganda and a less informed young Tamil population's inability to see anything beyond a myopic Tamil exceptionalism, the BJP's failure has been in the making for many decades. It is no use blaming the current leaders for not being able to reverse this trend.
But do take heart, BJP fans. Not everything is lost.
In recent times two good leaders have found traction - former police officer Annamalai IPS and Vanathi Srinivasan, both from western Tamil Nadu, have been able to create some buzz for the party and we now have a BJP towards which even non-saffron ideologists are slowly gravitating towards.
The party may even do well in some selected seats.
Nevertheless, every ADMK fan is worried - this is an election they're fighting without it's old leadership - Jayalalithaa. The party structure is strong but it has been in power for two terms and EPS is relatively untested as the party's face.
All that they're praying for is that the BJP does not become the ADMK's albatross around the neck.
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