In the 2016 Tamil Nadu assembly elections, BJP could scrap nothing despite riding high on the Modi wave in the Northern states in contrast to its national counterpart INC which bagged 8 seats and indeed the state parties AIADMK and DMK which secured 134 and 80 seats respectively. That time AIADMK under J. Jayalalithaa could secure a majority despite a tough competition from M. Karunanidhi led DMK since people had an unshakable faith in her leadership. INC was a well-known ally of DMK and to counteract the plan of the INC gain foothold in southern territories and resign it to a defeated position, BJP tried its level best to form an alliance with AIADMK, to no avail.
BRIEF HISTORY ON THE BITTERSWEET RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BJP AND AMMA
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) [a father-figure for the BJP] has always harboured a fetish for AIADMK due to its ideological proximity and tried on multiple occasions to form a successful alliance, which not only failed or was a lost cause, but also earned the wrath of erstwhile ally DMK’s patriarch Karunanidhi who went ahead to form a lasting association with the INC led UPA in 2004 and led to the latter’s victory in the year’s Lok Sabha elections by helping sweep 35 out of 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, whereas BJP led NDA drew a blank even with Jayalalithaa’s support. After this setback, the AIADMK never allied with the NDA.
A point to note here is that BJP also lured the AIADMK to induct it into its state alliance since 2006, however the overtures were ignored by Jayalalithaa for two reasons. One, Jayalalithaa wanted to maintain a neutral stance in terms of her preference for one national party (BJP) over other (INC) and wanted to keep her doors open for both. Two, she feared that an alliance with BJP would cannibalize her Hindu vote-bank in case BJP decided to drop off in the future.
In 2014, BJP formed a front with smaller parties of Tamil Nadu such as DMDK, MDMK, PMK etc. since Jayalalithaa declined support this time. However, the alliance could not stand strong with conflicts in political interests between the constituent parties and the alliance fell apart few months before the Tamil Nadu State elections in 2016, leaving BJP no other option than to return to their beloved Amma, only to receive the same cold response.
POST AMMA’S DEATH
Amma’s death left an irreplaceable vacuum and created chaos in Tamil Nadu’s political landscape. Initially, the AIADMK was split into two factions competing for leadership, one led by O Paneerselvam (OPS) and the other led by E Palaniswami (EPS). The state had 3 chief ministers in the period of 2016-17 before the BJP stepped in to negotiate a truce between the chief minister EPS and OPS. This eventually led to re-inclusion of the AIADMK in the NDA for the 17th Lok Sabha elections held in 2019 and there has been no turning back thereafter.
FAST FORWARD TO 2021
BJP has adopted a well formulated modus operandi in Tamil Nadu between 2019 and 2021 –
- Induction of OBC (Shudra) and Dalit leaders into high ranking positions such as the president and vice president of BJP’s state unit
- Ensured compliance to Hinduism as a whole and the perpetrators had to face a severe repercussion
On March 14 2021, it was announced that the party would be contesting from 20 constituencies under the aegis of AIADMK including Coimbatore South, Thousand Lights and Kanyakumari. The DMK led INC would lock horns at 5 of these constituencies.
BJP’S ELECTION MANIFESTO
- The administration of Hindu temples will be handed to a separate board comprising Hindu scholars and saints
- 50 lakhs new employment opportunities will be created
- Tamil Nadu will be made Number 1 state in South India in Ease of Doing Business
- Fishermen assistance of Rs. 6000 per year would be provided like its being provided for farmers
- Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, pure drinking water through pipelines will be provided free of cost to every household in the state within 2022
- Government Multi-specialty hospitals will be established at all district headquarters in the state and treatment will be provided free of cost
- All essential commodities that are distributed through the Tamil Nadu Public Distribution System will be delivered to homes directly for all electronic ration card holders
PUBLIC SENTIMENT ANALYSIS
Many of the opinion polls indicate a landslide victory for DMK+ with it winning an average of 150 constituencies while AIADMK+ and BJP+ winning around 70.
However, the BJP leadership tells a different story. BJP Tamil Nadu President L Murugan expressed confidence that AIADMK+ would form the ruling party. BJP National General Secretary, CT Raju echoed with Murugan and also stated that BJP would secure a victory in all the 20 constituencies contested.
Political commentators have openly described the situation as dicey despite opinion polls owing to the volatile Tamil Nadu polity landscape. Though they believe that the result might be slightly in favour of DMK+, nothing concrete could be said until 2nd May, the date of declaration of results.
It is no secret that AIADMK is losing confidence among voters and is facing anti-incumbency after ruling for 10 years. BJP on the other hand with its caste politics strategy seems poised to win the vote-bank of Brahmins and upper castes (around 15%, majorly concentrated in districts like Chennai, Thanjavur, Madurai and Coimbatore), Nadar and Devendra Kulla Vellalar communities. Political analyst Sumanth C. Raman has stated that there is growing Hindutva sentiment and resentment against parties which seem to insult Hindu Gods and prominent Hindu figures which may work in favour of the party. Needless to mention, AIADMK+ has purported itself as merit based in contrast to its hierarchical counterpart DMK. The current chief ministerial candidate of DMK Udhayanidhi Stalin lacks political exposure making him a weak choice
However, if we look at the other side of the coin, there is a resentment for the BJP as well, evident from the #GoBackModi tweets whenever our Prime Minister visited Tamil Nadu. This probably stems from the notion that the state’s culture would be compromised, Hindi would be made a mandatory course, and Dravidianism would be undone. More importantly, public believes AIADMK+ would be a puppet government ultimately controlled by the Big Boss at the Centre. Therefore prima facie, it seems there would be a sunrise in the state rather than a lotus bloom this time. Therefore, BJP needs to rework its positioning in the state. While this would be simpler in case AIADMK+ comes to power, it would get arduous in case it is DMK+ instead