The hopes of the BJP forging a pre-election alliance in Tamil Nadu with a major Dravidian party came crumbling down when MK Stalin, unanimously elected president of the DMK on 28 August, said in his maiden speech that his top priority would be to throw out the government of Narendra Modi at the Centre which has “undermined federalism and secularism.”

In his opinion, the ruling party at the Centre was destroying social justice and inclusivity espoused by EV Ramasamy Naicker, Annadurai and MK Karunanidhi, and was backing the AIADMK’s government of “robbers and dacoits” headed by Eddapady Palananiswamy After toying with the idea of latching on to the AIADMK for months, the BJP has come to the conclusion the DMK is the only party in Tamil Nadu worth aligning with in the present context and has been making overtures to the Dravidian major.

BJP president Amit Shah was slated to speak at the 30 August Karunanidhi memorial meeting in Chennai as part of wooing the DMK for an electoral alliance in next year’s Lok Sabha election.

After Stalin’s call to his party cadres “to teach a fitting lesson to the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that seeks to paint India in saffron,” Shah was left with no option but to cancel his Chennai visit. At a Shakti Kendra meeting of the BJP in Chennai recently, Shah said, “We need to go in with something concrete on our side in Tamil Nadu.” That continues to elude the BJP.

Although Stalin has emerged the unchallenged leader within the DMK, he faces a serious threat from his elder brother MK Alagiri, former Union Minister who was expelled from the party in 2014. Prior to his expulsion, he was in charge of the DMK in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, a position he handled with distinction.

He is credited with evolving the “Thirumangalam Formula” of winning elections which the DMK’s arch rival, the AIADMK, was quick to adopt. Left in the lurch after the death of Karunanidhi, Alagiri is organising a rally in memory of his father in Chennai on 5 September to test his strength and popularity among party cadres. There is no denying the fact the DMK lost the 2016 Assembly election because of the alienation of Alagiri and his followers.

Election to the Tamil Nadu Assembly is due only in 2021, but it is likely to be advanced to coincide with next year’s Lok Sabha election. The entry of Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth into electoral politics in Tamil Nadu has added yet another dimension to the next Assembly election.

The death of J Jayalalitha, leader of the AIADMK, and MK Karunanidhi, leader of the DMK, within a short span of each other, has left a gaping political vacuum in Tamil Nadu. Taking advantage of the vacuum, the BJP is hoping to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu.