AIADMK-BJP alliance faces double anti-incumbency

AIADMK-BJP alliance faces double anti-incumbency

TN polls results

Visible anti-incumbency against the state and central governments and the split in the ruling AIADMK after the death of J Jayalalithaa might prove advantageous for the DMK, which has aligned with the Congress, Left and other smaller parties for the Lok Sabha polls.

The rainbow alliance stitched together by the ruling AIADMK by roping in BJP, PMK, IJK and a few other smaller outfits appears formidable and strong on paper but is yet to be tested on ground as transfer of votes among parties that are ideologically at odds isn’t an easy task.

Though the ruling party is also holding parleys with actor Vijaykanth’s DMDK, it has made no headway so far, but it is widely believed an agreement will be reached. On the other hand, the DMK alliance, with the same combination of parties minus PMK, had swept the 2004 polls by winning all 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and the lone Puducherry Lok Sabha constituency, propelling the UPA to power.

Even arithmetically, the DMK-Congress combine has an edge over the AIADMK-BJP-PMK mega alliance which has to carry the baggage of “double anti-incumbency” of the Narendra Modi and E K Palaniswami governments. The DMK alliance has projected Congress president Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate and has made Modi and Palaniswami its prime targets to cash in on the prevailing anti-Modi sentiment in the state.

Modi has faced protests on Twitter and on the ground every time he has visited Tamil Nadu in the past year. There is visible anger against his government on issues like NEET, the Centre’s alleged attitude against Tamil Nadu on water issues and imposition of Hindi and Sanskrit.

Tamil Nadu was one of the very few states that ducked the Modi wave in 2014 and sided with one of its own, the charismatic Jayalalithaa, giving the AIADMK 37 of the 39 seats. The BJP and PMK, which were part of a grand alliance, won one each while the DMK and Congress contested separately and bit the dust.

The April-May elections will also put to test the leadership skills and political acumen of M K Stalin, who took over as DMK president after the death of his father M Karunanidhi, and Palaniswami, who has brought the AIADMK under his control, leaving his deputy Paneerselvam in the lurch. This is the first election after the death of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi and it will be interesting to see how their parties fare. This is where actor Kamal Haasan steps in, with a promise to change the “political culture”. But it needs to be seen whether the cinema legend can make any impact in real life.

The AIADMK has too many problems to handle this election – its rebel T T V Dhinakaran has declared war against it and is preparing to contest all 40 seats on his own; a sizeable number of cadres seem to be upset with the party leadership for aligning with the BJP, against which people have protested more than once – for instance, demanding closure of Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi, against the Chennai-Salem Expressway and against exploration of hydrocarbons in Cauvery Delta to name a few occasions.

The AIADMK can’t take Dhinakaran lightly – the rebel had scored a spectacular victory against its candidate in the by-polls to R K Nagar assembly seat represented by Jayalalithaa twice. Political analysts say the division of AIADMK votes between the ruling faction and Dhinakaran would help the DMK combine in many segments.

“The biggest problem for the AIADMK is BJP. People believe that the BJP is responsible for mal-administration in Tamil Nadu after the death of Jayalalithaa. And the AIADMK is seen as a meek party that has surrendered to the BJP. The very fact that the AIADMK has gone in for an alliance shows that the ruling party is staring at defeat,” political observer Aazhi Senthilnathan told DH.

AIADMK, PMK and BJP – three major parties in the alliance – profess different ideologies and it will be a herculean task to ensure that the amity displayed by the leaders of these outfits trickles down to their workers. PMK cadres are yet to forgive the AIADMK for the humiliating defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, when the party lost all six seats it contested in alliance with AIADMK. Also, the rivalry between PMK and DMDK cadres is legendary, with the latter making inroads into the vote bank of the former.

“Above all, it will be very difficult for the alliance to convince people to vote for them by invoking Narendra Modi. The double anti-incumbency will play a major role in deciding who wins,” Senthilnathan said. 

Former Congress MP and AICC Secretary Manicka Tagore said that unlike the AIADMK-BJP alliance, the DMK combine does not have contradictions and is “ideologically coherent.” “The AIADMK has lost its credibility after the death of Jayalalithaa and her subordinates are not strong enough to make any impact. Secondly, Modi is very unpopular in Tamil Nadu. The double anti-incumbency will ensure that this opportunistic alliance is defeated,” Tagore told DH.

He also said the alliance was not just banking on the mistakes of the current dispensations but has also given solutions to rectify them. “While our president Rahul Gandhi has been talking about Minimum Income Guarantee and waiver of farm loans, DMK chief M K Stalin has promised to waive off loans of students. We pinpoint mistakes and give ideas to rectify them as well,” he said.

AIADMK spokesperson and former minister Vaigai Chelvan told DH that the alliance will make an impact in Tamil Nadu and dismissed suggestions that there was no convergence of ideas among its constituents. “We can’t compare 2019 to 2014 when our late Amma was alive and in fact the alliance was stitched together to ensure that the dreams of our late leader are fulfilled,” Chelvan said.