The Best That Can Happen Between AIADMK And Tamil Nadu BJP Is A Split
Everything need not be about poll arithmetic.
In politics, it doesn't matter what is said. Who is saying it matters more.
The announcement that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tamil Nadu are no longer in an alliance has come from a leader of the regional party and not its actual leader, Edappadi Palaniswamy.
So, what does that mean? In common man's terms it can be construed that the door between the two parties is closing, but it is not totally shut.
Already some analysts are saying that the recent sniping from the Tamil Nadu BJP leader K Annamalai at the former totems of the AIADMK is a political stratagem in the bargain for more seats to contest (as an alliance group) in the 2024 general elections.
Whether it is indeed the case is open for speculation. But the subsequent response from the AIADMK leaders taking potshots at Annamalai and then talking tough on the tie-up make it clear that the southern party is not ready to be pushed around.
But truth be told, the AIADMK-BJP partnership is already wearing thin, and it can be argued that the best-case scenario for both the parties is a formal divorce.
For, the respective parties are at a stage in their political evolution that doesn't allow for carrying external baggage.
The two have stuck it together in the belief that going their own separate ways would split the anti-Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) votes. There is a kernel of psephological truth in such a thought.
But both the AIADMK and the TN BJP are losing their personal identity in the process and that is also helping the DMK, whose bigoted ways have hardened in the last few months as it knows fully well that the AIADMK-BJP alliance bloc is not able to mount a creditable retort in the current scheme of things.
TN BJP Needs Self-Evaluation
The state BJP, under the leadership of Annamalai, has become much more focused and battle-hardened. But it is equally a fact that the party's relative success in the state have all come when it has been in a link with either the DMK or the AIADMK.
Annamalai's arrival has, for sure, brought a new-found energy among the party set-up.
Quite unlike the previous leaders, the former IPS man has shown more willingness to get his hands dirty with grassroots politics and try and chisel a separate identity for the party, which is in line with its national identity.
Annamalai has been relentlessly touring and meeting people, and the BJP now feels more confident.
However, the party cadre feeling more hopeful is one thing, and performance in the election as an individual entity is another. And this is where the TN BJP is untested. The previous solo efforts were when the BJP was an also-ran in the state.
While the AIADMK as an ally has helped it to grow, the BJP could not come out all guns blazing against Dravidian ideologues for obvious reasons.
The recent kerfuffle that Annamalai's words against former chief minister C N Annadurai have generated is a good case in point.
The DMK, even though it claims to swear by Anna, chose to look away while it is the AIADMK that is taking him on over this issue.
The BJP onslaught against ‘Dravdidology’ would hardly ring true when it is in an actual relationship with a party that adheres to that philosophy, albeit without any radical vehemence.
Also, it cannot pin down the DMK adequately on corruption issues when the ‘patron saint’ of the AIADMK is J Jayalalithaa, a person who was convicted for graft.
A break from the AIADMK has the potential to help the TN BJP evaluate itself through more identifiable metrics and prepare for itself a course that would be uniquely its own.
Of course, it could also turn out to be a political tragedy. But it will clearly show whether all the tall-talk emanating from its leaders has actual connection with the ground realities.
MGR-Jaya Legacy Vital For Stopping The DMK
For AIADMK too, this is a good opportunity to set its house in order, something which it hasn't attempted in the aftermath of Jayalalithaa's demise in the December of 2016. The party's internal plumbing, as it were, is in a shambles.
There is Sasikala-T T V Dinakaran faction, operating as a separate party. Then there is the feud between the former chief ministers Edappadi Palaniswamy (EPS) and O Panneerselvam.
Though EPS is the leader of the party that is deemed legal, everyone knows that the splinters are causing major havoc.
EPS has been able to solve many crises in the party using his closeness with the BJP. A break from that process will even out things in the party.
Of course, without the BJP's backing, things will get worse and more chaotic in-house for the AIADMK. But there is no gainsaying that reality. But in the long run, it would help the party to re-find itself.
The legacy of MGR and Jayalalithaa are important bulwark against the rising tide of the DMK.
Both MGR and Jayalalithaa regularly check-mated the DMK (M Karunanidhi). The two defeats of Jaya at the hands of DMK are instructive.
The first one, in 1996, was self-inflicted. The 2006 loss was a poll arithmetic fluke, and in any case, it was essentially a hung assembly and the DMK was saved by its alliances.
AIADMK's 'Dravidology' is unlike the DMK's. In that, it is leavened by pragmatism and is mostly devoid of malice.
MGR was a believer and never hurt the sentiments of any religion or community. The founder's DNA is still intact in the party.
The fact is AIADMK needs to recapture the Jaya-MGR spirit, and the reality that it was in an alliance with the BJP kind of precluded it.
It gave the DMK the leeway to raise the bogey of 'north India party will come in' — the equivalent of TN khatre mein hein — and walk away with the spoils.
But sans the BJP link, the AIADMK can shed its inhibition and go hammer and tongs against the DMK and its partners, who are also stuck with it for want of alternatives.
Of course, the immediate primary challenge for the AIADMK is to sort out its personal issues. That, as of now, looks tough. But it is not an impossibility.
Whoever emerges on top within the party after the churn, which mind you will be murky, would be in a better position to mount a serious challenge to Chief Minister M K Stalin and company and that is the need of the hour in the state.
Tamil Nadu politics has space for both the AIADMK and the BJP in the fight against the DMK. Both together will open up only one flank in the battle.
But when separate, AIADMK and BJP, can joust according to their own strengths, and that would doubtless put the Sanatana-phobic DMK on the defensive.
But for that to happen, the AIADMK and the BJP have to fight from their own corners. To be sure, there is an element of wishful thinking in such a ploy. But greater common good demands that.
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