Decoding the poll impact of AIADMK’s split with NDA


Chennai: The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) walking out of an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has left the former regaining a sense of freedom, in whose company, the latter was hoping to win a few seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections to redraw its strategy in Tamil Nadu.

Annamalai has been unsparing of Dravidian leaders including the late J Jayalalithaa, linking them to corruption, which led to AIADMK calling off its alliance with BJP. (ANI)

The breakdown of ties, however, is not likely to immediately impact the state as assembly elections will be held in 2026, by when the BJP will want to contest on its own anyway. But, Tamil Nadu has not just been a major state in aiding successive parties to clinch the seat of power in New Delhi, it has also played a pivotal role in providing numbers in the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament to pass key resolutions.

The development also throws open new formulations in Tamil Nadu’s politics. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is a part of an alliance that also consists of the Congress, Left parties and minority parties, and will face the parliamentary polls as part of the INDIA bloc. But, with AIADMK’s decision to exit the BJP-led NDA, it remains to be seen in which way the remaining regional parties will swing, within the coalition.

While both the parties facing the challenge of consolidating an alliance, the AIADMK, which is the main opposition in the state, will have to regain its lost ground and contest the 2024 elections with no Prime Ministerial face and will also have to woo back minorities, who were alienated since its tie-up with the BJP in 2019.

The BJP had occupied a more visible space as the opposition against the ruling DMK government, while the AIADMK had remained consumed by internal squabbles over its leadership and various factions. It was only earlier this month, after fighting several battles within the party and in the courtrooms, Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) secured the reins of the AIADMK and sealed the ouster of O Panneerselvam (OPS).

“We will go to the masses, the people. That will be our first step,” said a senior AIADMK leader, requesting anonymity. AIADMK’s internal assessment has consistently shown that being with the BJP is baggage on ideological issues and particularly because of alienating Tamil Nadu’s minorities, the leader added.

After coming together in 2019, the AIADMK-BJP coalition had also lost every election–the 2019 parliamentary polls, 2021 assembly elections and 2022 local body elections, while the ruling DMK’s secular progressive alliance had swept each of these elections.

While it is evident that the Dravidian parties still hold sway in Tamil Nadu with the DMK winning a majority in the 2021 polls and the AIADMK finishing second with 66 seats, the BJP with a modest performance kept its ambition of becoming a dominant force in the state by 2026, alive.

Since the 2021 elections, the BJP has been exploring the option of uniting the expelled trio of OPS, TTV Dhinakaran and V K Sasikala. With their caste-based vote bank in southern Tamil Nadu, the BJP had wanted them to be brought back to strengthen the NDA, but EPS was firm to not allow that. Now, OPS and Dhinakaran have already joined hands, hoping to find a space in the NDA, leaders from the OPS camp told HT earlier.

Annamalai has been unsparing of Dravidian leaders including the late J Jayalalithaa, linking them to corruption, which led to AIADMK calling off its alliance with BJP. “This has unexpectedly ended but the AIADMK is perturbed by the success of our yatra,” said a senior BJP leader referring to Annamalai’s padayatra across the state.

The scenario is reminiscent of the 1960s in Tamil Nadu when Congress did not align with anyone from 1967 to 1972 when it tied up with the DMK, political commentator Ramu Manivannan said, adding that “Tamil Nadu’s politics is based on identity and culture.” “Now the AIADMK cadre will have more freedom to speak in line with the identity politics of Tamil Nadu which is Dravidian and the BJP will use Annamalai to cut through the Dravidian politics.”

In 2019, when the AIADMK joined hands with NDA, out of 39 parliamentary seats, the party contested in 20, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) in 7, BJP in 5, DMDK in 4 and Puthiya Tamizhagam (PT), Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) and Puthiya Needhi Katchi in one each. The opposition DMK swept the polls winning 38 seats leaving the AIADMK with only one seat.

In the 2021 elections, the DMDK walked out of the alliance, but the remaining allies were intact, which further allowed the BJP to enter the Tamil Nadu assembly for the first time in 20 years. BJP won four of the 20 seats it contested in and one of the legislators, Nainar Nagendran had joined from the AIADMK affirming the opinion that the Dravidian major contributed to the national party’s performance.


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