What does alliance with BJP mean for AIADMK in polls?

What does the alliance with BJP mean for AIADMK in Assembly polls?

The way the alliance was announced on November 21 speaks volumes about the vulnerability of the AIADMK to the BJP's pressure

Union Home Minister Amit Shah with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Dy Chief Minister O Pannerselval at a programme to declare open the Thervoy Kandigai Reservoir (Chennai's fifth Reservoir) and lay the foundation stone for several infrastructure projects across the state of Tamil Nadu, in Chennai. Credit: PTI

With Amit Shah by their side, O Panneerselvam and Edappadi K Palaniswami taking turns to declare that the AIADMK's alliance with BJP will continue shows that the Dravidian outfit was under compulsion to tie-up with the saffron party for the Assembly elections due next year.

The way the alliance was announced on November 21 speaks volumes about the vulnerability of the AIADMK to the BJP's pressure – a government event in which Shah, the Union Home Minister participated, was exploited to affirm the alliance stitched together in 2019.

The rainbow alliance failed to make any gains by losing 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats it contested to the DMK combine. The alliance will once again take on a resurgent DMK, which is leaving no stone unturned to make a strong comeback after 10 long years.

After the declaration, Chief Minister Palaniswami and his deputy Panneerselvam rushed to a luxurious hotel where Shah stayed for the night and were closeted with him for nearly an hour. The red-carpet that the AIADMK rolled out for Shah with the CM, his deputy, and six ministers lining up to receive him at the tarmac was not lost on the eyes of the party cadre and public at large.

Read: AIADMK-BJP alliance to continue for Tamil Nadu Assembly elections

The scenes that unfolded on Saturday are extrinsic to Tamil Nadu's political culture where regional leaders have always wielded tremendous influence and immense respect from national players. It was more so in the case of late AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa as Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke protocol to drive to her palatial Poes Garden residence for a luncheon in 2015.

The “unusual” meeting then came just a year after Jayalalithaa turned the 2014 Lok Sabha elections into a 'Lady versus Modi' fight and asking people to ensure that the BJP candidates forfeit their deposit amounts. Just six years down the line, the AIADMK under OPS-EPS looks helpless vis-a-vis BJP, which has walked the extra mile to save the government after Jayalalithaa's demise in 2016.

Many ministers of the current government face potential cases and corruption charges, while the AIADMK is also facing anti-incumbency after being in power for a decade.

R Kannan, biographer of C N Annadurai and M G Ramachandran, believes that the current AIADMK leadership neither had a choice nor they seemed worried about the party's future.

“I do not think this leadership of the AIADMK is thinking long-term and it is clear that their aspirations are short term. But they did not have a choice either. Their government owes its existence to the BJP and the current leadership is just eager to complete the current term and get maximum support from the BJP,” he told DH.

The BJP, which does not have much of a base in the state, wants to grow at the cost of its ally much like it did in states like Maharashtra and Bihar, but such a scenario looks nearly impossible in Tamil Nadu any time soon. AIADMK, though on a decline since 2016, commands an “uncompromising and strong cadre” base meticulously cultivated by M G Ramachandran and nurtured by Jayalalithaa.

Sasikala, a long-time aide of Jayalalithaa, playing a role in strengthening the party, not immediately, but at a later stage cannot be completely ruled out, political analysts said. However, the BJP is using the AIADMK's disadvantageous position to send an unequivocal message that it will be at the driver's seat despite being a junior partner in Tamil Nadu.

It is no secret that the BJP wants to emerge as the prime challenger to both Dravidian majors DMK and AIADMK and is working towards its plans, though such a feat is not possible overnight.

Despite all the grandstanding for the past few weeks, the AIADMK made the announcement at a time when leaders of the Tamil Nadu unit of BJP are openly talking of a coalition government in the state after the assembly elections. The two parties were involved in a tug of war over BJP's 'Vetrivel Yatra' for which the AIADMK Government refused permission.

The analysts said that the “tough time” for AIADMK has begun as the BJP will now try to dominate the political scene and indulge in tough negotiations during sharing of seats.

“In the alliance, AIADMK may face multiple challenges within and outside the party at the grass-roots. As the state election is so crucial for both, balancing each other would be a tough task, though they have been in an alliance earlier. More than this, AIADMK will be held answerable for all the policies of the Centre like Hindi imposition. And of course BJP will go for a hard bargain.,” political analyst P Ramajayam said.

Prof Ramu Manivannan, Head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras, said that the way the alliance was announced itself shows the change in dynamics.

“It is a known fact that the AIADMK is under compulsion and they have survived so long only because they have pleased the BJP. This is probably the first time that the alliance is announced first and leaders going for a discussion. The AIADMK leadership very well knows an alliance with BJP will be detrimental for the party in the long run but it cannot raise its voice,” he told DH.

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