BJP-AIADMK split: What next?

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BJP-AIADMK split: What next?

Tuesday, 03 October 2023 | Kalyani Shankar

BJP-AIADMK split: What next?

The AIADMK-BJP split does not augur well for the BJP which is trying hard to get a foothold in southern India

Could the split between the AIADMK and BJP be permanent? If so, this could hurt the BJP's chances of winning in Tamil Nadu since the AIADMK had supported them since J Jayalalithaa's passing in 2016. The decision to end its partnership with the NDA on a national and state level may put the BJP at a disadvantage.

The future political landscape could have an impact on the upcoming 2024 elections. It could cause a shift in power among Tamil Nadu parties and their alliances. This may result in the AIADMK losing the support of the Modi government, which has acted as a powerful ally.

According to experts, the separation between the BJP and AIADMK is expected to be temporary. The leaders of both parties have advised their members to refrain from making negative comments about each other. The BJP seeks more support in the Southern region and hopes to secure additional seats through partnerships.

Last week, former AIADMK minister Munuswamy announced that his party is severing ties with the BJP and NDA. He accused the BJP state chief, Annamalai, of deliberately tarnishing the reputation of respected party members, including former Chief Ministers CN Annadurai and Jayalalithaa.

The decision may have a significant impact on state and national politics. AIADMK is the lone major partner of the BJP at the national level. Previously, NDA included bigger parties like Shiv Sena, Akali Dal, Telugu Desam, and AIADMK. Still, now only AIADMK remains in the alliance. For the BJP, the loss is more significant. Despite earnest efforts, it has not established a substantial presence in Tamil Nadu — the power switches between the DMK and AIADMK since 1967. The AIADMK has ruled 30 out of their 50 years.

Tamil Nadu has two main political parties: AIADMK and DMK. AIADMK is a popular party with a large membership of two crore people, and it offers an alternative to DMK. The DMK and AIADMK, the two main Dravidian parties, have both supported the BJP at different times.

For decades, The BJP has faced a tough challenge in winning over voters in Tamil Nadu. The Dravidian movement started by EV Ramaswamy Naicker has taken deep roots in the form of DMK and AIADMK parties. The party only secured 3% of the vote in the last Lok Sabha elections. In comparison, the two Dravidian parties had a solid 25% base.

Since 2016, the AIADMK party has experienced continuous defeats in all elections. It has no charismatic leaders like Jayalalithaa or founder MG. Ramachandran — both matinee idols. The party's performance in the most recent Assembly polls in 2021 decreased the seats won, from 136 to 75. The DMK-Congress coalition took control of the government. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, AIADMK only secured one seat, a significant drop compared to their previous 37. Meanwhile, the DMK coalition's seats increased from 0 to 39. Consequently, AIADMK cadres view their connection with the BJP as a hindrance. The BJP's attempt to win over voters in Tamil Nadu failed due to differing ideologies. The Dravidian parties are non-believers, while BJP's primary election strategy is centred around Ram Temple in Ayodhya earlier and Sanathan dharma now.

The upcoming Lok Sabha elections are significant for the BJP, while the AIADMK focuses on the 2026 Assembly polls. The outcome will largely depend on the coalitions formed by the two Dravidian parties. Prime Minister Modi is determined to secure a third term in the 2024 elections.

Insiders suggest that Annamalai's behaviour was not the main reason for the split.

Despite numerous complaints, AIADMK is unhappy that the BJP has not taken action against Annamalai. There is a more significant disagreement over seat sharing. Both parties failed to win seats in Tamil Nadu in the 2019 elections due to a lack of shared ideology. Annamalai has suggested running independently in the election, and some BJP members are considering the idea. Annamalai wants to form a coalition with smaller parties.

AIADMK chief Edapadi Palaniswamy has successfully united the party and worked with senior leaders to prevent the re-entry of Sasikala, TTV Dhinakaran, and former Chief Minister O. Pannerselvam. It is a no-no for him even if the BJP provides them seats under its quota. Palaniswamy was able to remove them from AIADMK and now holds complete control. He apprehends that once they entered, his authority would diminish.

The ruling DMK coalition apprehends it could be affected, and some suggest that Congress may ally with the AIADMK. The results will depend on the number of seats won by each alliance.

The upcoming Lok Sabha elections are crucial for the DMK, AIADMK, Congress and BJP. Among them, the BJP stands to gain or lose the most. Factors such as caste, financial resources, and political influence will also play a significant role in the election. The BJP needs to perform well in the Fice States Assembly polls. While BJP is ahead, in politics, a week is a long time, and anything can happen in the next six months leading up to the Lok Sabha elections.

(The writer is a popular columnist; views expressed are personal)

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