A beleaguered AIADMK, which originally wanted to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with only a few minor allies, and not align with the BJP, has succumbed to the pressure mounted by the saffron party and agreed to an alliance for the LS elections.
The AIADMK wanted to pursue the Jayalalithaa line of equidistance from the BJP and Congress-led fronts as in 2014 when the regional party swept the LS polls, bagging 37 out of 39 seats. This line was considered safe for the party as it did not want to yield the minority votes on a platter to the DMK-led combine. By not aligning with the BJP, the AIADMK ensured that it got a good share of the minority votes in the 2014 LS and 2016 Assembly elections.
The AIADMK is wary of going to the people with the BJP as an electoral ally as it fears the loss of minority votes would be greater than the average 3 per cent vote which the national party nets in Tamil Nadu.
However, the ruling AIADMK has been hit hard by raids of CBI, Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate agencies of the Centre, particularly with relation to Health Minister Vijayabhaskar and the Gutka scam. The AIADMK has been reluctant to drop Vijayabhaskar from the Ministry though his name also figured in the Rs 95 crore scam relating to alleged attempts to bribe the voters a few days prior to the RK Nagar by-election in Chennai. The AIADMK government is also surviving with a wafer-thin majority, questioned by the DMK which claims that the government is in a minority and the Governor should call for a floor test in the Assembly.
In this situation, the AIADMK needs the support of the BJP-led government at the Centre for its very existence. Hence, the approval of the party high command to the overtures of the BJP for an alliance.
The BJP, which at one point of time was toying with the idea of aligning with the DMK since the latter was shown as likely to win over two-thirds of the LLS seats in TN in all opinion polls conducted by TV channels, has run out of options as the DMK has opted for continuance of its alliance with the Congress in the State. It was hoping that actor Rajinikanth’s party would align with it but the actor appears reluctant to enter the fray in the LS polls. The BJP alliance for the 2014 elections (with PMK, DMK and MDMK) is in tatters as the MDMK is virtually part of the DMK-led front, and the DMDK and PMK formed separate fronts for the 2016 Assembly elections, moving away from the BJP.
Therefore, the BJP has only one option now – the AIADMK – in the hope of winning at least a few seats from Tamil Nadu, to compensate for losses in the North. The NDA won only two seats in 2014 including one of PMK.
Informal talks seem to have been held by Union Minister Nirmala Seetharaman and Pon Radhakrishnan, and the BJP has handed over a wish-list of 20 LS seats.
The AIADMK was shocked that the list had even included some AIADMK seats held by some of its prominent leaders.
An informal agreement seems to have been reached on a 25-15 share by the AIADMK and the BJP, with the AIADMK to take in a few minor allies within its quota of 25 seats, while the BJP will provide for a few minor allies (it is expected that Puthiya Tamizhagam will be one of them), within its allocation of 15 seats. The BJP is hoping the contest the lone seat from the Union Territory of Puducherry.
If all goes well for the alliance, this could be the largest number of seats to be contested by the BJP in a major alliance in Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK gave only five seats for the BJP in 1998, and six in 2004, when Jayalalithaa was heading the party. To move from six to double digits, is a big leap forward for the BJP, which has been struggling to make a mark in Tamil Nadu. An announcement could be made during PM Modi’s visit to the State likely in January-end.