The fact remains that national parties have for decades been reduced to a secondary status in Tamil Nadu
The implications for the national party BJP as the Dravidian major AIADMK snapped ties with it are greater than just having to write off its electoral chances in the state of the Tamils. It might mean the BJP will face alienation in all South India save Karnataka where it can still be hopeful of winning seats to the Lok Sabha in 2024, in alliance with Janata Dal (Secular).
The local BJP chieftain, a former police officer turned career politician, is being portrayed as the villain of the piece for carrying out an RSS-BJP agenda in his criticism of Tamil Nadu parties, personalities, and icons, both existing and departed.
Besides acting as an agent inimical to alliance politics, Annamalai may also have been guilty of feeding BJP a rosy picture of its prospects in the land of a Dravidian duopoly stretching back to 1967 in the seat of power at Fort St George.
His repeated salvoes at revered figures of AIADMK, including the DMK founder Annadurai who MGR considered his mentor, and Jayalalithaa, had led to such bad blood as to negate the good equation that the BJP supremo Narendra Modi had enjoyed with the party for years.
The image of a domineering political partner with little understanding of alliance dharma is what the BJP will be smeared with after this parting of ways as a staunch ally cut its ties, and with the NDA as well.
The fact remains that national parties have for decades been reduced to a secondary status in Tamil Nadu where clinging to the coattails of the Dravidian parties was an existential necessity for support in Parliament, but invariably without a share of power in the state.
The vaulting ambition of the BJP’s local chief may have been premised on an apparent upper caste attraction to the charisma of Prime Minister Modi, but which will hardly translate into sizeable votes that will count in the ballot box. What he has achieved is to bring the alliance to the rocks while his own party has approximately four per cent vote share.
Not even the warm personal vibes that the AIADMK supremo Edapaddi Palaniswami shared with the BJP top brass, especially the most powerful duo, helped keep the uneasy alliance stapled even as the demand for seats to contest seemed to grow along with the local BJP’s ambitions. A miffed E. Palaniswami, who found no acceptance either as the CM face of the alliance for the next Assembly polls, told his fellow leaders not to worry about any central agency raids and probes they may have to face after severing ties.
In its national calculations of winnable Lok Sabha seats, Tamil Nadu may figure low as the BJP’s collaboration in 2019 had led to only O Panneerselvam’s son winning one seat of 39, but AIADMK’s nine Rajya Sabha members did come in handy for cobbling a majority to pass legislation in the upper house.
A formal alliance that became possible only after Jaya’s death — she had kept the BJP out in 2016 when she proved her point about not mixing ideologies — is now ended. The prime beneficiary will be the DMK front for whom a repeat of the 38 seats won in 2019 may be eminently possible even if the AIADMK sees some surge in support as it distances itself from the rightist BJP-RSS tilt. Any three-cornered contest will only suit the DMK front while being a huge setback for the BJP.