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Even while asserting that the AIADMK alliance will win all 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in the 2024 Parliament elections, former chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) who recently led his party’s protest against the ruling DMK, totally avoided speaking on the Narendra Modi government’s performance which is certain to be the key issue throughout India during the Lok Sabha polls.
Though State BJP leader K Annamalai asserted that his party’s alliance with the AIADMK remains intact, Palaniswami ignored the BJP altogether even while speaking about the next Parliament elections.
The principal opposition leader attacked the DMK government on the law and order front and criticised the increase of power tariff and property tax in a bid to convert the Lok Sabha elections into a referendum on the State government.
Compared to the many agitations and programmes organised by the BJP, the protest demonstration led by the AIADMK leader witnessed bigger crowds and more enthusiasm
Chief Minister M K Stalin had already come out with statements that his party would fight the next Lok Sabha elections on an anti-BJP platform and aim to remove the saffron party’s government at the Centre. In a veiled attack on the AIADMK, Stalin also commented that a few people were helping the ‘enemies of Tamils’ to gain a foothold in the state.
But, Palaniswami has totally sidestepped the allegation and given the impression that politics in Tamil Nadu was bipolar between his party and the ruling DMK, and that other parties do not count. The protest demonstrations also come at a time when the BJP is projecting itself as the major opposition in Tamil Nadu.
Compared to the many agitations and programmes organised by the BJP, the protest demonstration led by the AIADMK leader witnessed bigger crowds and more enthusiasm. He had also announced continuous protests in all the cities, towns and rural areas as a show of strength for the AIADMK, through which he seems to want to prove that no other party including the BJP has a presence throughout the state.
Palaniswami is challenging Stalin to an open debate on the performance of the 18-month-old DMK government and the 10-year rule of the AIADMK
EPS’ silence on the BJP alliance will also blunt the criticism of his opponents that he is a slave of the saffron party and helping it to establish a base in Tamil Nadu. He did not praise the BJP government at the Centre on any issue, since such comments would raise questions on his silence on issues like rising fuel prices, Hindi imposition, EWS quota and centralisation of power.
Palaniswami also played down his meeting with Governor R N Ravi and countered the DMK allegations that he had met the Governor to get BJP support in the intra-party tussle. He pointed out that Stalin too had met the previous Governor to submit petitions against the AIADMK government. The opposition leader did not touch ideological issues and entirely focused his speech on the bread and butter issues of the local people.
People of Tamil Nadu have a history of having different yardsticks for the Assembly and Parliament elections. Though the AIADMK under M G Ramachandran was defeated in the 1980 Lok Sabha polls, it rode to power in the Assembly elections which was held within a few months’ gap. When AB Vajpayee headed the BJP, the DMK formed an alliance with the BJP and won the 1999 Parliament elections but the party lost the 2001 Assembly polls. The DMK which won a majority of seats in the 2009 Parliament polls was routed in the 2011 Assembly polls.
Palaniswami is challenging Stalin to an open debate on the performance of the 18-month-old DMK government and the 10-year rule of the AIADMK. However, during the Parliament elections, anti-incumbency against the DMK government can only be one of the several factors, and the debate is certain to shift towards the 10-year rule of the BJP government.
Whether the BJP at the Centre must continue or not will be the key question in the next Parliament polls and Palaniswami will be compelled to give a definite answer at the time.
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