As the drum beats for the 2024 electoral battle grow louder by the day, the BJP has been showing a certain desperation to get a foothold in Tamil Nadu, which has now suddenly backfired. When Union home minister Amit Shah who spearheads the national party’s every blitzkrieg was in the state the other day, he exhorted the people to hand over at least 25 of the 39 seats to the BJP and its allies, but without having its main ally and regional political behemoth, the AIADMK, by his side. Since he did not convey it clearly if the BJP wants to go through the electoral motions in 2024 by holding hands with the AIADMK as in the past or to go solo, the BJP state president, K. Annamalai, went a bit overboard to rock the alliance boat in which he had been sailing.
True, the leaders of both the parties have been behaving like couples forced to continue in a doomed marriage due to parental pressure for quite some time. That ‘domineering parents’ in this case is the BJP high command, read Amit Shah, who perhaps understood the importance of AIADMK in elections and never let Mr Annamalai and the AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami part ways. But this time, when he came down, he did not bother to counsel the estranged leaders on the need for unity.
Whatever the plan was behind Amit Shah going alone to the people to entreat them for their votes, saying that the BJP has done a lot of things for them in the past nine years, Mr Annamalai perhaps took it as a sign of his leader at last understanding his oft-repeated view that the BJP needed no more hand holding in the state. So he ruffled the feathers of the AIADMK cadre by needlessly referring to J. Jayalalithaa, without naming her, as an embodiment of corruption, something that he, gladiator-like, would wipe out, he said. In response, the AIADMK rose in fury as a single man, starting from the grassroots worker to those in the higher echelons, demanding the snapping of ties with the BJP and calling Mr Annamalai an upstart.
Reacting angrily to the open eruption of rage against him at the AIADMK district secretaries’ meeting, which Mr Palaniswami controlled by agreeing to come out with a meek resolution, Mr Annamalai added fuel to fire by saying that he had vowed to fight corruption and that he cared less that the AIADMK was an ally and its cadre could be offended by his words. So, even if the alliance might not break officially, unless Amit Shah decides on it from his safe confines in Delhi, for the members of the two parties on the streets and embattled polling booths, the unity and bonhomie are over.
Hitherto, as in any forced marriage, workers of both the parties had been travelling the political path together though they never saw eye to eye ideologically or relished each other’s company. This was so only because they had a common enemy to defeat, the DMK. But now that Mr Annamalai has made it clear that he cared less for the sentiments of the AIADMK cadre, it can never be the same when the elections come, even if the alliance remains intact on paper.