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Creating a “new political history” in Tamil Nadu as BJP president Rajnath Singh put it last Thursday while unveiling a new NDA coalition might be to overstate the case. But nevertheless, it is a significant achievement for the saffron party. Unable to reach a pre-poll alliance with its erstwhile ally, the AIADMK — notwithstanding the bonhomie between chief minister J Jayalalithaa and the BJP’s PM candidate, Narendra Modi — the BJP has brought together five regional parties on the same platform.
What the BJP has achieved through this coalition is unique and commendable. It is unique because for more than four decades Tamil Nadu has seen bipolar politics between the main two Dravidian parties — the DMK and the AIADMK. Other parties, including the Congress, have been relegated to the margins.
The NDA alliance in Tamil Nadu — including Vijayakanth’s DMDK, Vaiko’s MDMK and Ramadoss’ PMK — has the potential to challenge this two-party dominance.
This is commendable because the BJP has virtually no presence in the state. In 2009, the BJP did not get a single one of the 39 seats and today it is spearheading the third political option in the state. Compare this to the Congress, which in 2009 won eight seats while in an alliance with the DMK, but today finds itself alone with no alliance partner.
That said, the BJP’s alliance comes with many built-in limitations. In the event of the BJP requiring the support of either the AIADMK or the DMK to form a government at the Centre and given the bitter differences among the regional parties, it is to be seen how a Vijayakanth-led DMDK and a Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK can be accommodated on the same side.
A contradiction in this coalition is the coming together of the DMDK and the PMK as both parties have been at loggerheads. The absence of PMK founder S Ramadoss from Thursday’s function has also created a lot of speculation. But, to quote Otto von Bismarck, “Politics is the art of the possible…” and in the past we have seen unexpected twists and turns during government formations.
A lot can happen between now and April 24 when the state goes to polls and even after the results are announced on May 16. Nevertheless, it would be safe to say that the BJP has made the right moves by extending its alliance in the South and thereby getting closer to its target ‘Mission 272+’. These developments, if nothing else, will impart the colour and dynamism that will make elections in the state all the more interesting.