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SHASTRI RAMACHANDARAN | 21 AUGUST, 2014

BJP Falls out with Allies in Tamil Nadu

BJP is being challenged if not taunted by its state-level allies


CHENNAI: The BJP handing over the Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker’s post to the AIADMK has made its allies in Tamil Nadu even more distrustful of the saffron party. The BJP’s Tamil partners, mainly the DMDK of actor Vijayakanth, the MDMK of Vaiko and the PMK of Dr S Ramadoss suspect that the national party is wooing Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for allying with the AIADMK ahead of the assembly elections in 2016.

The cracks in the alliance are all too evident with the question of who should lead the NDA in Tamil Nadu being revived afresh; and, the PMK going so far as to ask the BJP whether the NDA in the state, formed before the Lok Sabha elections, is existent or not.

The NDA in Tamil Nadu was never a cohesive alliance. None of the constituents could agree upon which party should lead the alliance and every one of the smaller Kazhagams were jostling for the mantle. Thus, the leadership issue remained unresolved during the Lok Sabha election campaign; and, the DMDK, which contested 14 of the 39 constituencies, was assumed to be the “leading force”.

However, with AIADMK sweeping 37 of the 39 seats, all that the alliance could manage was one seat each for the BJP and PMK. The sole BJP winner, Pon Radhakrishnan, was made minister of state under a cabinet minister who belongs to the Shiv Sena. Radhakrishnan, who was State BJP President, feels belittled and unhappy that he has not been given a weightier position. The State BJP is also aggrieved that its lone winner from Tamil Nadu is considered unworthy of a cabinet berth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheme of things.

To make matters worse, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, son of the PMK’s founder who won from Dharmapuri, feels ignored at not being given a cabinet berth. The denial has been rankling and the PMK, like the MDMK, has been picking on issues – such as that of Sri Lankan Tamils, denial of visa to members of a UN team, celebration of Sanskrit Week, Sri Lanka’s detention of fishermen from Tamil Nadu – to make known its unhappiness with the Modi Sarkar. These parties, along with other Tamil parties were also sore at Modi inviting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse for his swearing in.

However, the Union Government, especially the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister have continued to ignore the demands and protests of the Tamil parties in so far as they relate to Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu’s fishermen and Sri Lankan Tamils.

Although the ruling AIADMK is equally vocal on these issues, the Centre’s reading is that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is under pressure because of the shrill posturing of the other Kazhagams; and, once these parties are sidelined and their clamour ignored, then the AIADMK’s own emphasis on these issues would be less pronounced. Emboldened by the fact that the populist proponents of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause in India have been rejected by the voters in Tamil Nadu, the Centre and BJP functionaries are increasingly, and repeatedly, making it clear that India-Sri Lanka relations would no longer be influenced by regional interests but be structured and guided strictly by national interest.

This is a blow to all the BJP’s allies who would then be left with no edge against the AIADMK and the DMK. Therefore, sooner or later, the BJP’s allies may have to part with it. The criticism of the Centre and the BJP, and questions of leadership raised now are the preparatory noises and moves for such an eventuality.

It is in this context that the PMK is projecting itself as an alternative to the AIADMK and DMK, and insisting on Dr Anbumani being named as the NDA’s candidate for chief ministership. To plump for Anbumani would mean the DMDK and MDMK walking out of the alliance as Vijayakanth and Vaiko are also chief ministerial aspirants. The PMK is also engaged in an attempt to build up a wider social alliance.

In other words, the BJP is being challenged if not taunted by its state-level allies. However, the BJP is not yet ready to sever ties with its present allies unless there is some clarity on the prospects of an alliance with the AIADMK or DMK. The DMK, which did not win a single seat in the Lok Sabha elections, is making all the right noises to find favour with the BJP, though unsuccessfully so far.

Whether the NDA coming apart in Tamil Nadu would queer the pitch for the BJP or ease the way for an alliance with the AIADMK – that is if Amma would deign to join hands with the BJP on its terms – is much speculated upon in Chennai’s political quarters including among BJP leaders.

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