As Tamil Nadu’s 16th Legislative Assembly session is underway, a novel equation has emerged between two major parties in the state’s Opposition—All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
The BJP which was in alliance with the AIADMK during the 2021 Assembly elections, now thinks that within the alliance fundamental differences on ideological grounds do not matter if the Opposition can put up a strong “anti-DMK front”.
Meaning, despite AIADMK’s stand against the BJP-led Union government’s Citizenship Amendment Act, the BJP’s Tamil Nadu state leadership considers a lasting alliance with the Dravidian party, beneficial.
In May this year, the AIADMK had won 66 seats and the BJP four seats in the Legislative Assembly.
A Beneficial Relationship for BJP
Says S G Suryah, spokesperson of the BJP in Tamil Nadu,
"“For now, there is no doubt that we will continue to be in alliance with AIADMK because our common enemy is Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). As far as the differences are concerned, in any alliance, there will be some differences. That will not be a problem for our alliance.”" - S G Suryah, spokesperson of the BJP in Tamil Nadu
When probed further he said that AIADMK and BJP have only an electoral alliance for mutual gain and not an ideological alliance. The issues on which the BJP differs with AIADMK include, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservations.
"“We favour NEET, but ADMK says they do not want NEET. The 10 percent EWS reservation we implemented in the Centre and states like Kerala and Telangana but in Tamilnadu, we could not do it. Even while in alliance, AIADMK refused to implement EWS quota.”" - S G Suryah, spokesperson of the BJP in Tamil Nadu
Meanwhile, a comparison of the 2021 Assembly election results with that of the 2016 Assembly elections, shows that AIADMK has not gained anything by aligning with the BJP. In fact, it has won considerably fewer seats compared to the 2016 elections
AIADMK Hit by BJP Alliance?
In 2016 Assembly elections when AIADMK was not in alliance with the BJP it won 136 seats out of 234 and its seat share was 40.88 per cent. However, after aligning with the BJP during 2021 Assembly elections, the AIADMK won just 66 seats and its vote share reduced to 33.29 percent.
Meanwhile, when BJP contested the elections without aligning with the AIADMK in 2016 assembly election, it could not even win a single seat out of the 234 seats it contested. Its vote share then was a mere 2.86 per cent.
But after aligning with the AIADMK in 2021 assembly elections, it got 4 seats out of the 20 seats it contested. And its vote share was 2.62 percent.
While it is clear that the AIADMK-BJP alliance worked in favour of the BJP the AIADMK’s fortunes in the state had fizzled after tying up with the latter.
The BJP is often accused of forming alliances with regional parties only to rise to power. In Andhra Pradesh for instance, the BJP which was in alliance with Telugu Desam Party could not improve the latter’s political future. Now, the TDP, which finally severed ties with the BJP in 2019 is in the Opposition.
Helped AIADMK, Says BJP
Suryah, however, thinks the BJP helped AIADMK in 2021.
"Take the Assembly seats in Coimbatore neighbourhood. AIADMK candidates won 9 out of 10 seats in Coimbatore and its neighbouring constituencies with the margin of less than 2000 votes because the BJP vote bank got transferred to AIADMK.” " - S G Suryah, spokesperson of the BJP in Tamil Nadu
However, Coimbatore is a district in Tamil Nadu’s Western region where AIADMK has performed uniformly well. The Kongu region is considered to be the Dravidian party’s stronghold.
What does the future hold for BJP and AIADMK?
Winning four seats “has certainly proved that we have a space to grow in Tamil Nadu.”, the BJP representative feels. As far as the assembly is concerned, Suryah says that the party will function as a strong Opposition. “We will have an understanding with all the alliance partners, but BJP will also have its own individual stand on every issue.”
He adds that their next aim is to get as many seats as possible in Tamil Nadu’s local body elections.
But, How Did BJP Win Four Seats in TN?
Though Tamil Nadu has been rather clear about its anti-BJP sentiment, the party could win four seats this election because they managed to get good leaders to enter the fray. Also, the AIADMK’s vote bank got transferred to the party.
Out of the 20 seats it contested, the BJP won in Nagercoil, Tirunelveli, Modakurichi and Coimbatore South.
In Nagercoil, BJP fielded its veteran leader MR Gandhi against DMK’s incumbent MLA N Suresh Rajan. Having worked extensively in Kanyakumari from the 1960s, first as leader of Bharatiya Jana Sangh and later from 2016 to 2020 as BJP’s state vice president, Gandhi has been a known figure among the people of Nagercoil.
"“Over the years, he has willingly helped people from across all religions by solving their problems like civic issues.”" - S G Suryah, spokesperson of the BJP in Tamil Nadu
In Tirunelveli, Nainar Nagendran took on ALS Lakshmanan, son of DMK veteran AL Subramanian, who was a three-time MLA from the constituency and a former Mayor. From 1967, the AIADMK and the DMK have alternatively won in this constituency seven and six times, respectively.
Nainar Nagendran himself has won twice (2001 and 2011) from this constituency, as an AIADMK candidate. Nainar joined the BJP in 2017, after the demise of former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha.
In Tirunelveli, he is a known face and has a vote bank of his own. He could also galvanise votes from his caste, Thevar, and the AIADMK vote bank, the BJP spokesperson says adding, “Ahead of the elections Prime Minister Narendra Modi fulfilled the longstanding demand of Pallar community and renamed them as Devendra Kula Vellalar. That also helped us in getting votes from this constituency.”
In Modakurichi and Coimbatore South, the BJP won by a very small margin. As both these regions come under western Tamil Nadu, a stronghold of AIADMK, BJP could easily win using the AIADMK vote bank, say sources from the DMK.
However, with AIADMK not benefiting much from its alliance with the national party and ideological differences popping up between them, will the BJP-AIADMK alliance remain intact?
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