Tamil Nadu: BJP, AIADMK Itching To Part Ways?

Tamil Nadu: BJP, AIADMK Itching To Part Ways?

by Mohan Idiculla - Dec 25, 2022 01:46 PM +05:30 IST
Tamil Nadu: BJP, AIADMK Itching To Part Ways?From left to right: EPS, OPS, and Annamalai
  • Any misadventure by these two main opposition parties will only mean that the DMK becomes much stronger over time.

Tamil social media is full of bravado by angry Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) online warriors, who are responding to utterances by second-rung leaders of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) faction led by Edappadi K Palaniswami.

In the most recent online standoff, a former minister and Rajya Sabha member, C Ve Shanmugam, made below-the-belt comments on Tamil Nadu BJP and its leader, Annamalai, averring to a collusion between the BJP and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Delhi.

This and other such fights are now common, especially involving the AIADMK second line.

That the comments have not yet been condemned by Palaniswami, or anyone else, leads to the buzz that he and the party are perhaps weighing their options, both for the Lok Sabha polls, likely in 2024, and the elections to the state assembly further down, sometime in 2026.

There's no doubt that the AIADMK, under Palaniswami, is facing tumultuous times, with most of the second-line leadership unsure of what the future holds for the party.

With the DMK in power and rising from strength to strength, at least for now, the AIADMK must battle it out on the streets for a while, until its electoral firepower is tested again during the Lok Sabha polls in 2024.

It's here that some observers in Tamil Nadu note that since the Lok Sabha elections are not a key milestone for the AIADMK, the party leaders are willing to test the waters and check if some other electoral arithmetic could bring in better fortunes for them in the assembly polls.

These rumblings, and anticipated realignments, are emboldening the AIADMK to go all out and attack the BJP, and not refrain from even personal attacks on Annamalai.

They are the kind of attacks, some in poor taste, which makes one think whether the AIADMK is really willing to take on the all-powerful ruling DMK or just feign bravado by attacking the official National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally, the BJP.

A well-known political observer jocularly said that the AIADMK, at least online, has forgotten that their principal opponent in the state is the DMK, not the BJP, which many were calling the NOTA ("none of the above") party until just the other day.

Some state watchers, who closely observe the AIADMK, say the party's second-rung leaders are worked up with the uncertainties looming on the horizon, thanks to assertions of the breakaway faction, led by former chief minister O Panneerselvam.

While the cadre are largely on the side of Palaniswami, some leaders and party workers are wary of the damage that Panneerselvam can inflict using his purported proximity to the BJP at the national level. This is another key factor for many to take an anti-BJP stand.

Cut to the state unit of the BJP.

With the former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Annamalai at the helm, the state unit of the BJP has a feeling of unprecedented enthusiasm. The cadre of the party are all energised to take on their political opponents, and grow, even if it means that they run a proverbial marathon.

It is within this backdrop that the online warriors of the BJP are not taking the utterances of the AIADMK top brass lying down.

Many in the virtual world are now openly calling out the Dravidian parties (DMK and AIADMK) and their policies.

Interestingly, the social media wings of both the parties seem to imagine that their respective parties will be better off walking it alone in the Lok Sabha elections of 2024.

For the BJP, the assumption driving this notion is the fact that the NDA is already confident of hitting the 350+ mark, and that too without a single projected win from the two states in peninsular India, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

This gives the party the space to experiment and see what maximum vote share they can get by walking it alone, or by sewing a form of third front, with parties like Dr Krishnasamy's Puthia Tamilagan, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), and other smaller parties.

The cadre think they have all the reasons to believe that the state unit is growing leaps and bounds, with the young, clean, and charismatic image of Annamalai at the forefront.

Even if the party wins just three to five seats by competing alone in 2024, they believe it is no mean achievement, and that such an event will help the party in the long run, including in the assembly polls in 2026.

More than anything else, the feeling is that such a build-up would put the much smaller state unit in the driving seat in any alliance talks with the AIADMK or any other party.

As far as the AIADMK is concerned, its leaders and some cadre feel that they have no stakes in the 2024 elections and, therefore, they can also afford to experiment in an alternate alliance minus the BJP.

There are a bunch of people in the party, and even many political observers and journalists, who feel that the AIADMK would have fared better than the 66 seats they won by being allies with the BJP and PMK, in addition to some smaller parties, had they gone alone.

The BJP won four and PMK five seats in this AIADMK-led front.

But the reflection that the AIADMK would have fared better is keeping in mind the anti-Modi narrative that was constantly spun by the DMK and its allies, with the entire regional and a few national media agencies' Tamil Nadu bureaus, and the now-famed Dravidian Youtube ecosystem in cohorts.

Pertinent to note is that despite all this work, and a media hype of a pro-DMK/Stalin wave, the party could only win 133 seats — good enough to win a majority, but by no means a huge or spectacular win.

In terms of vote share, the 'secular front', with the DMK and Congress, won 45.3 per cent votes, while the NDA (AIADMK+BJP+PMK) won 39.7 per cent votes.

This proved that neither the post-Jayalalithaa AIADMK had lost its charm with the electorate nor the BJP would have eroded its vote share in any significant way.

Hypothetically, if the fringe Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK), led by Seeman, had not been in the fray, it would have meant that a good 6.5 per cent of the vote could have gone any way, leading even towards a hung assembly.

Interestingly, even the front led by the Amma Makkal Munnettra Kazhagam (AMMK) of T T V Dhinakaran and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) polled close to 3 per cent of the vote share in the 2021 poll results.

Commenting on the tirade of some of the AIADMK leaders like C Ve Shanmugam and K P Munusamy, a seasoned observer said, "These people are under the impression that they lost in the last assembly polls owing to BJP being in the alliance. That’s just political convenience, as the assembly segments which these people fought in almost have zero BJP presence or influence.

"At least until 2021, the BJP has been a party with pockets of strong presence in Western TN (called the Kongu region) and in Kanyakumari district. The fact that most of the ADMK leaders who contested from Kongu, including S P Velumani, won shows that the impression that the ADMK could have fared better sans the BJP in alliance is just an argument of political convenience, devoid of facts and ground realities."

A cursory glance at the assembly wins and vote shares in the 2021 assembly elections only shows that the DMK is never the invincible party that they love to portray themselves as with the help of a pliant media.

In reality, the DMK is heavily reliant on its allies, like the Congress and Thirumavalavan’s Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), to make sure that a good chunk of the minority Muslim and Christian vote stays firmly in their kitty.

With all this, the AIADMK and BJP state units would do well to make sure that the DMK does not enjoy the ‘split in anti-incumbency’ that can give it the benefit of big wins in 2024.

Already, on many occasions, the DMK leader M K Stalin has urged his cadre that they have to make sure that the 2019 win of 39/39 seats is repeated.

For the AIADMK, which is battling a crisis within, it is important in the short term to prove that they continue to hold pole position in the opposition space.

The only way for the party to make that impact, and build a formidable perception, is to stitch stronger ties and win as much as possible in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

For the BJP Tamil Nadu unit, an increase in vote share is the only way to build the party in the long run. With the anti-Modi rhetoric gradually on the wane, and on the back of aggressive politics played by Annamalai, the synergies of a working alliance will ensure that the party sees much-needed growth in the state.

More importantly, any misadventure by these two main opposition parties will only mean that the DMK becomes much stronger, to the point that it cannibalises a weak AIADMK, pushing the party into oblivion.

When one looks at the politics of the state from such a prism, it is only pragmatic that a strong combined opposition dominates the political discourse for time to come.

Freelance writer, and student of politics
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

An Appeal...

Dear Reader,

As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.

Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.

We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.

Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.

Become A Patron
Become A Subscriber
Comments ↓
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

Latest Articles

    Artboard 4Created with Sketch.