Why The Tamil Nadu BJP Is A Divided House Ahead Of The Long-Delayed Local Body Polls In The State

by M R Subramani - Dec 4, 2019 09:43 AM +05:30 IST
Why The Tamil Nadu BJP Is A Divided House Ahead Of The Long-Delayed Local Body Polls In The StateA BJP meeting in Tamil Nadu (@BJP4TamilNadu/Twitter.com) 
  • The BJP at the moment does not have the wherewithal to fight the local body polls scheduled in December-end.

    And turncoats like state party vice-president Arasakumar, who still appears loyal to his erstwhile boss DMK chief M K Stalin, doesn’t do the party any favour towards this end.

The Tamil Nadu State Election Commission has announced that the long-due elections to the rural local bodies will be held on 27 and 30 December.

Elections to urban local bodies are expected to be scheduled later. The elections have been delayed since 2016 when the term of these bodies got over.

The polls are to fill some 1.18 lakh posts in panchayats across the State, starting from villages.

Elections at the grassroots level are something that every party is happy about since they help them expand their base, but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tamil Nadu is a divided house ahead of these polls.

The reason for the division within the State is the party unit planning to contest alone in the local polls. Sources in the BJP say that the party is in no position to contest the local polls alone.

“For the elections to the Lok Sabha, BJP contested five seats in Tamil Nadu in an alliance led by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The party contested fewer seats than its alliance partner Pattali Makkal Katchti (PMK). Those who held the talks with the AIADMK on the party’s behalf were the ones to benefit from the alliance as almost all of them got to contest,” says a BJP leader on condition of anonymity.

Even for the Lok Sabha polls, the Tamil Nadu BJP did not follow the normal protocol.

Usually, when elections are announced, the party calls for applications from contestants to see who are all interested and from which constituencies there is more interest. In the case of Parliament elections, nothing of that sort was done, say BJP cadres.

State BJP leaders, who are against the party going alone in the local body polls, say that in a three-cornered contest, the party stands no chance to win.

The reason why the BJP chances are bleak is that while the AIADMK and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) candidates splurge, the saffron party doesn’t spend much.

For example, a candidate standing for panchayat election as a nominee of either of the Dravidian parties could spend nearly Rs 1.5 crore.

If the BJP has to have any chance, it needs to spend at least Rs 50 lakh. But candidates who are showing interest are not in a position to spend even Rs 50,000.

More importantly, the BJP could get to contest up to 10 per cent of the seats in alliance with the AIADMK. Of the 10 per cent seats that it could contest, the party can hope to win 60 per cent.

BJP leaders who favour an alliance see two benefits from opting for an alliance.

For example, if a panchayat has 50 members, the AIADMK and DMK could each get a good number of seats. If the BJP has an alliance, it can expect to win some 5-6 seats of this.

Seats won thus would give the party a constructive role to play in any local body. That is one benefit due to which the party can expect to play a crucial role in a panchayat.

The second benefit is that getting elected to the local bodies will help panchayat members to decide on the beneficiaries for the Prime Minister’s Housing scheme or the Swachh Abhiyan scheme.

Right now, it is the Dravidian parties’ representatives who decide on the beneficiaries, thus negating the development work done by the Modi government at the Centre.

The problem for the BJP in Tamil Nadu at the grassroots is that no one is coming forward to contest the local body polls.

For example, out of the 500 seats at stake in one of the districts, the party leaders received hardly 200 applications showing interest to contest.

In such circumstances, the party will not gain anything as it does not have a semblance of chance to emerge the winner of large number of seats in any local body.

The BJP in Tamil Nadu is torn between leaders who favour the DMK and leaders backing the AIADMK. These leaders try and wrest gain for themselves in elections to the Lok Sabha or the Assembly.

As these leaders have no stake in the local body elections, they are now talking of the party going alone.

Leaders favouring alliance insist that the BJP would stand to benefit immensely if it gets elected a good number of local body representatives.

Probably from thereon, the party can think of increasing its presence and mull going alone.

Right now, the party is in no shape to contest alone. Doing so will only result in the party losing face further, say these leaders.

Those who favour the party going alone think that the local body elections will help the unit finding its feet or at least know where it stands in Tamil Nadu.

Apart from this, the Tamil Nadu BJP unit now doesn’t have a chief after Tamilisal Soundararajan was appointed Telangana Governor in September this year.

The BJP was left embarrassed last weekend when Tamil Nadu unit vice-president B T Arasakumar said that the DMK president M K Stalin will become Tamil Nadu Chief Minister one day. BJP had admitted Arasakumar into its fold after he quit the DMK.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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