The decline of Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, courtesy BJP

The decline of Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, courtesy BJP

Just a little over two years after her death in the winter of 2016, Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK has seen much decline, having lost its sheen in the public and bargaining power at the Centre. PTI file photo

The late J Jayalalithaa nurtured the AIADMK to make it the largest party in Tamil Nadu with a committed cadre base and mustered the political courage to keep the national parties at bay for more than 12 years.

But just a little over two years after her death in the winter of 2016, Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK has seen much decline, having lost its sheen in the public and bargaining power at the Centre.

Pictures of O Panneerselvam waiting to get an audience with BJP president Amit Shah at the Madurai Airport and the latter shooting down the AIADMK’s proposal to name the alliance as the one led by the Dravidian party would haunt the party for long. So will the pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with J Jayalalithaa at her Poes Garden residence that adorned the walls of the AIADMK headquarters on the birth anniversary of the late leader.

Though the AIADMK had been playing the second fiddle to the BJP, unheard of and unexpected during Jayalalithaa’s tenure, ever since the charismatic chief minister breathed her last on December 5, 2016, developments in the past week have given credence to criticism that the regional party has surrendered itself before the national outfit.

It is no secret that the AIADMK government has survived this long only due to the support of the BJP — the party has been waking up to a new crisis every day since 2016 — which has walked the extra mile to ensure that the dispensation stays. When BJP’s plans to make inroads into Tamil Nadu failed, the party forced the AIADMK into an alliance.

When Jayalalithaa was alive, alliance discussions always took place at her palatial bungalow in upscale Poes Garden and it was a common practice for national party leaders to come knocking on her doors. She opposed projects and schemes which she thought was detrimental to Tamil Nadu — GST and Uday Scheme for instance — and made sure that national parties follow her in the state and not the other way around.

And old-timers in the AIADMK recall several leaders of the erstwhile NDA led by A B Vajpayee waiting outside Jayalalithaa’s residence to receive the letter of support to the government.

But, the AIADMK that exists today is no more the party that boasted of a “military-like discipline” among its cadre — the outfit is riddled with factions united only by the compulsion to keep the government intact. For the first time in its history, top leaders of AIADMK including Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam were waiting for BJP’s representative, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, for hours together at the residence of a businessman.

And in another first, leaders of the AIADMK, which had secured 41% of votes in 2016 Assembly elections, were waiting for Goyal yet again at a five-star hotel where the negotiations were concluded. And the last nail in the coffin was the meeting Panneerselvam had with Shah in Madurai — the BJP president said in a clear voice that the AIADMK is part of the NDA and every meeting will be held under the banner.

The AIADMK might have restricted the BJP to just five seats, but the damage that has been done to the party to save the government has been innumerable, political analysts say. Prof Ramu Manivannan, Head of Department of Politics and Public Administration of the University of Madras, told DH that the AIADMK has stooped “too much” before the BJP since it does not have the courage to the stand up to the saffron party.

“In the past two years, the AIADMK leadership, especially O Panneerselvam, has dismantled whatever legacy that the AIADMK had in the past. He tore the fabric of the very party that was built by M G Ramachandran and later nurtured by J Jayalalithaa. With her shortcomings notwithstanding, Jayalalithaa was able to checkmate M Karunanidhi and the DMK,” Manivannan said.

“I have no hesitation in calling the AIADMK the foot mat of the BJP. That’s how the AIADMK has been treated by the BJP after Jayalalithaa’s death,” he said.

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