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The AIADMK under Edappadi Palaniswami should have disappeared by now and gotten swallowed by the BJP. But the AIADMK is just not going away. The AIADMK voter base is refusing to switch to the BJP, by and large.

2024 was a parliamentary election in which the issues were grand and sweeping including the possibility that the BJP will tinker with the Constitution and render Indian democracy defunct. The AIADMK is a political party with no charismatic leadership, with the thinnest of ideologies, and relies on memories and worship of heroes of the rather distant past. Its current leader, Edappadi, can command little adulation except an acceptance of his leadership by the core party cadre.

Yet, the AIADMK front has bagged around 25% of the votes. It has come second in 26 constituencies. More than the BJP, it is Edappadi who has gone alone in the election to demonstrate the AIADMK’s continued relevance. Edappadi allied with DMDK, SDPI and Pudhiya Thamilagam.

The BJP has clocked more than 10% of the votes contesting 19 constituencies. It has come second in some 10 constituencies while its allies have come second in the remaining three, notable ones being OPS and TTV Dhinakaran.

The performance of the BJP and its allies should be compared to 2014 when it went alone, not 2019. Modi’s star was on the ascendant then. Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa were around. Jayalalithaa’s campaign that in Tamil Nadu the lady, being herself, mattered more than Modi resonated. The BJP was only one among the main parties of the NDA then.

More than the BJP, it is Edappadi who has gone alone in the election to demonstrate the AIADMK’s continued relevance

The DMDK, PMK and MDMK were far more powerful than they are now. The NDA front clocked slightly less than 19% of the votes. It won two seats, BJP in Kanniyakumari and PMK in Dharmapuri. BJP secured slightly less than 6% of the votes despite contesting only nine seats or less than half of what it contested in 2024. The DMDK under Vijayakanth was the alliance leader in 2014 and contested 14 seats.

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That the BJP has come second in so many constituencies in 2024 can be taken as an indicator that its local leaders are more recognized now. They are more visible and are endowed with a higher profile. But the party voteshare just hasn’t moved up enough overall despite many of the third rung parties such as the MDMK, DMDK and the PMK weakening over the years.

And all this comes after years of sustained campaigning, ten years of outreach blitzkrieg and leadership projections, and the buildup to Annamalai.

Annamalai commands much interest in the media. He works in tandem with central agencies in unleashing raids and has been hitting hard on the DMK. He has been promoted on social media as well as mainstream media. His police officer profile is supposed to stress law and order and incorruptibility against the DMK that has a history of facing corruption charges for more than 45 years now.

In the assembly elections scheduled for 2026, the AIADMK can therefore legitimately claim to be the leader and demand a lion’s share of the seats if there were to be an alliance

Despite all this, the telling piece of statistics is that the BJP has doubled its vote share compared to 2014 but by contesting twice as many seats. And that’s not really the kind of growth that matches the profile of the BJP in today’s Tamil Nadu. Overall, we can expect the NDA vote share remaining almost the same as in 2014 although today’s NDA in Tamil Nadu is quite different from the NDA of 2014.

If 2024 is to be a test of the BJP’s standing in the state, the vote share figures show that the BJP is still only No 3 in the state despite there being no other real claimant to the No 3. If it’s a test of AIADMK’s continued relevance, it certainly has proven Edappadi’s point at least in-part. Through the nation, regional parties had started seeing their alliance with the BJP comes at a cost of erosion of identity and strength, eventually.

Purely in terms of voteshares demonstrated in 2024, an AIADMK, NDA alliance is a formidable combination. The NDA could have very well picked up several seats in Tamil Nadu if the AIADMK had been part of it.

Also Read: How Modi avoided India Shining by not being Vajpayee

In the assembly elections scheduled for 2026, the AIADMK can therefore legitimately claim to be the leader and demand a lion’s share of the seats if there were to be an alliance. Moreover, assembly elections are local and the AIADMK can certainly claim a greater voteshare than what it got in 2024. BJP allies could very well switch to the AIADMK for assembly elections unless they get plum positions in the coming NDA government in New Delhi, which is still a shaky question.

It seems the AIADMK voter will not simply transform into the BJP voter. The BJP voterbase is typically urban and draws the more affluent sections. The AIADMK voter is the opposite.

The verdict is that Tamil Nadu is just not open to saffron politics even today. Beating the DMK and the AIADMK with the corruption stick is not really working for the BJP.

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