The ruling AIADMK and the BJP on Saturday, 21 November, announced that they would fight the upcoming State Assembly elections due in May 2021 as allies.
With both facing possible anti-incumbency, they have decided to sail or sink together to mount a challenge to Opposition leader DMK chief MK Stalin, who is going all out to capture power.
For Stalin, who is in his late 60s, it's a ‘now or never’ battle as he had remained ‘Ever the Prince and Never the King’ under his father, four-time chief minister and party boss for 50 years – M Karunanidhi. Stalin formally assumed the party leadership only after the passing of DMK patriarch a couple of years ago.
Chief Minister E Palanisamy and Deputy O Panneerselvam, who assumed power after the passing of tall leader Jayalalitha in December 2016, and who owe their position to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are going to seek a mandate on the basis of their government's performance in the last few years.
Will AIADMK Win Enough Seats To Pick The CM?
The BJP may be excess baggage in the State, as its vote share is less than NOTA, but the AIADMK leaders reckon that Modi would ‘help’ them get a fresh mandate after continuous AIADMK rule for nine years, the way he ‘helped’ Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
At a function in Chennai, Palanisamy and Panneerselvam said the alliance formed during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would continue for the next Assembly elections also.
But they also said the AIADMK would form the government again –– this is a firm ‘No’ to local BJP leaders who have been saying their party would win enough number of seats to decide who should be chief minister.
Amit Shah, on his part, assured the AIADMK leaders that “we are solidly with you like a rock.” Amit Shah targeted the DMK, as its secular front will be the challenger for the BJP in the state.
The DMK-Congress front swept the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, halting the Modi juggernaut as seen north of the Vindhyas.
Therefore, Shah signalled the virtual launch of the campaign by calling the DMK and Congress ‘party of dynasts’, taking the line adopted by Modi in Kashmir. He also said, “the Congress and DMK had no right to talk about corruption” as they were the ‘main players’ in the 2G scam. Never mind the CBI could not prove the case against former telecom minister in the UPA government and DMK leader A Raja and MP Kanimozhi, and the acquittal came when Modi was at the helm.
How Stalin Brushed Off BJP & Amit Shah’s Accusations & Campaign
Stalin has already dismissed the dynasty charge by saying it's better to be a ‘parivar party’ than a ‘communal parivar’.
Stalin knows dynastic politics is something people have come to accept. Brushing aside this criticism, his son and youth wing leader Udhayanidhi Stalin launched his campaign hours before Amit Shah landed in Chennai.
Stalin's only challenger and elder brother MK Alagiri, expelled from the party long ago, was visible a day before Shah's visit. It triggered the notion that he might join the BJP in Shah’s presence. That has not happened and is unlikely to happen unless Stalin refuses to re-admit him.
Alagiri knows the BJP can't come to power in Tamil Nadu in foreseeable future. He has let it be known that he is willing to accept Stalin's leadership.
The only catch the BJP could get ahead of Shah's visit was suspended DMK leader and former member of Parliament, KP Ramalingam. He was such a small fish that he joined the BJP hours before Shah landed in Chennai.
He did not even get the kind of attention given to former Tamil film star Kushboo, who came to BJP from the DMK via Congress.
What Stalin Is Likely To Focus On
The AIDAMK may have formalised an alliance with the BJP, but a ‘knotty’ issue will be that of seat-sharing. It proved to be tricky even in 2019.
The Congress, after the Bihar debacle, has said it will not haggle for seats with the DMK.
This was Shah's second visit to Tamil Nadu after the passing of Jayalalitha. He then talked about bringing to an end sixty years of “misrule”.
With superstar Rajinikanth deciding to stay out of politics, Shah has settled for the tried and trusted AIADMK.
Income raids on health minister and the chief secretary have been forgotten. That will be Stalin’s main thrust – corruption, misrule, divisive politics and erosion of federal structure.
With Shah firing the first salvo, the fireworks have started well ahead of the elections.
(S Murari is a senior journalist and analyst based in Chennai. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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