Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s death has come as a blow to the NDA government. Though not a constituent of the ruling alliance at the Centre, the AIADMK led by her was a reliable ally of the NDA on many issues both inside and outside parliament.
Thanks to her friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi since his Gujarat days and other senior BJP leaders, the Centre could bank on her support even on issues on which Tamil Nadu had strong reservations. Dravidian parties, for instance, were opposed to the legislation on goods and services tax (GST).
When the bill came up for passage in the Rajya Sabha where the NDA is in a minority, the AIADMK MPs chose to stage a walkout that facilitated its passage.
The AIADMK is third largest party in the Lok Sabha with 37 MPs and fourth in the Rajya Sabha where it has 13 members. It won this year’s assembly election and has 135 MLAs, out of total 235, in the state. The ruling BJP was banking on its support in the elections of the president and the vice-president next year.
The NDA on its own doesn’t have the numbers in parliament and state assemblies to get its candidate elected as president.
BJP leaders told HT that the Centre would do its best to help the AIADMK government tide over the crisis. “Given that we don’t pose any threat to the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, there is no reason for any change in equations with the party. The last thing we need is a split in the AIADMK,” a senior BJP functionary told HT.
Government sources in Delhi say they feared some mischief by the DMK in post-Jayalalithaa situation and were ready to deal with such a situation.
The new Tamil Nadu CM, O Panneerselvan, might need the Centre’s help in the immediate context but the ruling dispensation in New Delhi will miss the personal rapport that they had with Jayalalithaa.
Her absence may, however, give the BJP new hopes about getting a foothold in Tamil Nadu, which has moved on from the anti-Brahmin and anti-Hindi politics of dravdian parties.
BJP leaders do not see any immediate possibility of growing into a big size party in the state, but do see possibilities of an eventual and formal tie-up with the AIADMK, a move that did not see the light of the day during the 2014 Lok Sabha election.