Tamil Nadu: BJP's Ambitious Bid Tests Alliance Waters With AIADMK As It Bargains Hard For More Seats

Tamil Nadu: BJP's Ambitious Bid Tests Alliance Waters With AIADMK As It Bargains Hard For More Seats

by Bhuvan Krishna - Tuesday, September 19, 2023 01:44 PM IST
Tamil Nadu: BJP's Ambitious Bid Tests Alliance Waters With AIADMK As It Bargains Hard For More SeatsTamil Nadu BJP Chief K Annamalai (Left) and AIADMK spokesperson D Jayakumar (Right)

Despite AIADMK spokesperson D Jayakumar's denial of an alliance with the BJP, it appears that the two parties are actively working towards a potential arrangement.

During a recent meeting in Delhi between AIADMK chief Edappadi K Palaniswami and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, it was suggested that the BJP is seeking a larger number of seats for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

A report from the Indian Express indicates that the BJP is demanding 15 seats, a significant increase compared to the previous arrangement where they had secured only 5 seats.

Jayakumar's remarks came in response to Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai's repeated attacks on AIADMK stalwarts like J Jayalalithaa and, most recently, C N Annadurai.

He pointed out that after facing backlash for criticising Jayalalithaa, Annamalai retracted his statement to launch another attack, this time targeting Annadurai.

He also added that his statement about the absence of an alliance with the BJP is not merely his personal opinion but is supported by the party as a whole.

Referring to a speech made by Annadurai in 1956 criticising the Hindu faith, Annamalai stated that influential freedom fighter Muthuramalinga Thevar had condemned Annadurai for his remarks.

The AIADMK strongly reacted to this, with several leaders questioning the wisdom of bringing up the past, including Palaniswami.

In a recent statement, Jayakumar compared the BJP chief to a pest that damages its own home and properties. He emphasised that no AIADMK cadre with self-respect would accept such behaviour, and criticised Annamalai's words for not promoting collaborative or alliance politics.

Jayakumar clarified that the BJP is not part of their alliance, and any decision regarding this would be made during the elections.

He also asserted that the BJP and Annamalai would be insignificant without the AIADMK in the state, and would receive fewer votes than NOTA in such a scenario.

The report has pointed that the AIADMK cannot afford to remain silent in the face of remarks against Annadurai, especially considering the party's perception of losing its Dravidian roots due to its alliance with the BJP.

This becomes even more crucial as the DMK aggressively asserts its dominance in the political arena.

On the other hand, Annamalai has built a reputation for himself as a fearless and assertive leader, unyielding to the BJP's lack of significance in Tamil Nadu politics.

The BJP is reportedly confident in securing further concessions from the AIADMK. In its quest for 15 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu, the BJP aims to contest 10 seats independently while allocating the remaining 5 to its smaller local allies.

According to top BJP leaders interviewed by The Indian Express, their plans to expand their influence extend beyond the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

One senior leader mentioned a goal of reaching 90 Assembly seats by 2026. However, achieving this might prove challenging as Palaniswami, reportedly, is hesitant about contesting Assembly elections in alliance with the BJP, which may not be advantageous for the party.

Both BJP and AIADMK sources have revealed that the national party has urged Palaniswami to reconsider his stance on ousted AIADMK leaders T T V Dhinakaran and O Panneerselvam.

The BJP is concerned that these leaders could erode the support base of AIADMK, thus weakening the alliance against the DMK.

The AIADMK has expressed reservations about this proposal, as it fears that it would enhance the BJP's bargaining power in southern Tamil Nadu due to the intricate caste equations involved.

Significant gains have been made by the BJP in the region, particularly among the Mukkulathur community, also known as the Thevars.

Traditionally aligned with the AIADMK, this community shifted towards the DMK in the 2019 Assembly polls.

Notably, the late Jayalalithaa's close aide V K Sasikala, as well as rebel leaders Dhinakaran and Panneerselvam, all hail from the Thevars in this region. The return of these rebels would strengthen both them and the BJP, particularly in areas like Tirunelveli, Tenkasi, and Kanyakumari.

One advantage that the BJP holds is the numerous pending cases against top AIADMK leaders before Central agencies.

Despite concerns from AIADMK leaders about giving more power to the BJP, as Tamil Nadu's political landscape is not favourable to a national party, a senior party leader admitted that they are in a difficult position.

According to a former AIADMK minister, the additional constituencies that the BJP is targeting include Tirunelveli, Tenkasi, Kanyakumari, Madurai, Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram, Vellore, Perambalur, Coimbatore, and Nilgiris.

It is reported that Annamalai himself desires to contest from Coimbatore South, a stronghold for the BJP, while Union minister and former state BJP chief L Murugan has his sights set on the Nilgiris seat, which is currently held by the DMK's A Raja.

According to reports, the BJP is also interested in securing Puducherry's Lok Sabha seat as part of their alliance.

If the alliance is renegotiated, it is likely that AIADMK allies such as PMK led by S Ramadoss and DMDK led by Captain Vijayakanth will suffer.

The PMK, which previously contested on seven seats, may now only receive three. Similarly, the DMDK's four seats could be reduced to 1-2 seats, as stated by an AIADMK leader.

Bhuvan Krishna is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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