Tamil Nadu is the only State in the Indian Union to be ruled by regional parties continuously for more than half a century and it stands out as among the best ruled in the country. The BJP is determined to put an end to this stranglehold of regional parties as Tamil Nadu goes to the polls in the summer of 2021.
Amit Shah, Union Home Minister and a former BJP president, during his two-day visit to Chennai last week declared at a government function in Chennai that his party would contest the coming Tamil Nadu Assembly election in partnership with the ruling AIADMK.
Cadres and leaders of the AIADMK were taken by surprise as there were no internal discussions within the AIADMK about forming any alliance for the Assembly poll. Tamil Nadu has never had a coalition government though electoral alliances have been common.
In the 2016 Assembly election the AIADMK decided to go it alone and won a comfortable majority to keep up the tradition of single-party government. The decision to form the alliance was taken by Edappadi Palaniswamy, deputy coordinator of the AIADMK and Chief Minister who had vowed to follow in the footsteps of former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha.
In her long political career, she drew a complete blank only once, in the 2004 Lok Sabha election which her AIADMK contested as an ally of the BJP. After this bitter experience, Jayalalitha vowed never to enter into any alliance with the BJP. Though she had been on the best of terms with Narendra Modi, she refused to align the AIADMK with the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. But Palaniswamy joined the NDA in 2019.
Except for a solitary Lok Sabha seat the AIADMK won, the alliance came a cropper. Most BJP candidates forfeited their security deposits, but the party took comfort in raising its vote share in Tamil Nadu from two to 3.71 per cent.
Workers of the AIADMK are not very enthusiastic about continuing the ties. Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam justified the ties as continuation of a “victorious alliance.” Perhaps Shah has a magic formula. The BJP may be able to enter the new Assembly by riding piggyback on the AIADMK, but the ruling party may well its unsolicited ally a liability and spoil its chances of scoring a hat-trick.
Since the NDA alliance is led by the BJP, leaders of the party’s Tamil Nadu unit are coveting the Chief Minister’s post and are having visions of bringing Tamil Nadu under BJP rule. To sugar-coat the bitter pill and to impress Tamil Nadu voters, Shah ‘laid’ foundation stones or inaugurated various infrastructure projects, including Phase II of the Chennai Metro Rail Project, estimated to cost Rs 67,378 crore.
One or two of these projects have already been completed and a few or ongoing. The promised entry into politics of superstar Rajnikanth with his own party for which he has got a flag and name ready is a non-starter while the Opposition DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance with the Congress as major partner is waiting in the wings eagerly.