In the summer of 1999, the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa brought an abrupt end to the 13-month rule of the BJP government, pulling the rug out from under former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee's feet. Political analysts saw it coming owing to the uneasy relationship between the late former Prime Minister and the late TN Chief Minister.
Vajpayee never had it easy dealing with Jayalalithaa.
From the sharing of the Cauvery waters to allocation of the key subject in the finance ministry — there was always a tug of war between both leaders. Senior BJP leaders, including former Defence Minister George Fernandes, were often parachuted to Chennai to pacify the AIADMK supremo.
The love-hate relationship between Jayalalithaa and the BJP was due to the latter’s inability to convince the AIADMK supremo to join its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) — despite its overtures at various stages. It has taken 15 years for the AIADMK to come on-board NDA — that the deal was signed on the birth star day of Jayalalithaa is not missed on anyone.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi, equations were different.
Jayalalithaa shared a warm relationship with Modi since his days as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The Prime Minister even congratulated the AIADMK supremo on her acquittal in the disproportionate assets case.
The BJP on Tuesday finalised its alliance with the AIADMK for the Lok Sabha elections. The national party will contest in five seats in alliance with AIADMK, PMK and other parties. The mega alliance is for the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry.
While announcing the electoral alliance, union minister and TN BJP in-charge Piyush Goyal invoked the legacy of the late Chief Minister — J Jayalalithaa.
“We are starting our campaign in Tamil Nadu with full confidence that we will sweep the votes in Tamil Nadu as a mark of respect to Jayalalithaa ji. We will fight together so that Amma is happy wherever she is, and we will continue the legacy and good work that honourable Amma did for the state,” he said.
Piyush Goyal is confident of the BJP's alliance with the AIADMK. However, what will this get AIADMK in the Assembly polls? (Photo: PTI)
For the national party though, breaching the southern bastion of Tamil Nadu has always been tricky. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP forged an alliance with regional parties but managed to win just one seat in Kanyakumari — far away from the rumble-tumble of the seat of power in Chennai. Its vote share stood at 5.5 per cent.
In the subsequent 2016 Assembly Elections and the RK Nagar constituency by-poll, the party drew a blank. Without an ally, the BJP has never won in Tamil Nadu — its best performance was in 1999 when it joined hands with the DMK.
Going by the ‘Go Back Modi’ protests, there is palpable anger in the state against the saffron party.
The unhappiness is due to several reasons, including the Cauvery water issue, NEET exams, perceived hostility towards farmers and the release of seven prisoners in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Despite Tamil Nadu's political vacuum, the BJP finds it hard to shed its 'outsider' image. It is viewed as a party that lacks the distinctive Tamil identity, ignoring the concerns and welfare of the Tamil state and the Tamil people.
Senior journalists concede that the BJP needs the alliance of the Dravidian party to make inroads into the state. “Without the AIADMK and PMK, the BJP will not get even a single seat. The alliance will be contained and will have an impact in less than 10 seats — especially in northern Tamil Nadu, which is the Vanniyar bastion. However it is difficult to assess the alliance because the AIADMK's strength — without Jayalalithaa, and with the emergence of TTV Dhinakaran — is yet to be assessed,” argues senior journalist TM Veeraraghav.
The AIADMK government is battling anti-incumbency and a slew of corruption charges. The faction war with Sasikala’s nephew, TTV Dhinakaran, has weakened the AIADMK. However, an alliance with the national party is seen as an effort to put up a spirited fight against the DMK-Congress combine.
The early announcement of the alliance between AIADMK and BJP has given the Dravidian party a headstart over other political alliances in the state.
“The multi-party alliance can boost the AIADMK image if by-polls to the 21 Assembly seats are held simultaneously. The alliance will help in increasing AIADMK’s victory margins in individual constituencies, and it can also become a hedge against the perceived influence of TTV Dhinakaran,” says political analyst N Sathiyamoothy.
With influencing factors ranging from Amma's absence, the perceived Dhinakaran role and the expected Assembly polls in the state, the Lok Sabha seat sharing is being viewed as some sort of a litmus test for the AIADMK-BJP alliance.