The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has upped its ante in Tamil Nadu with its leader Mayawati deciding to go it alone in all the 40 Lok Sabha seats including the one in Puducherry, which may in fact augur well for AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa.
Though it is not unusual for the BSP to contest in a large number of seats irrespective of whether they win or not in Tamil Nadu, in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, their 'Elephant' symbol had made its presence felt in 30 seats.
This time it will be different as "We are reaching out to the upper castes as well and not just wooing Dalits," the BSP's state president Ku Selva Perunthagai told HT in Chennai today.
The BSP is trying to transpose its "social engineering" experiment to the South, in a bid to make it more inclusive, says Perunthugai.
The party's first list of 12 candidates includes three 'Brahmin' candidates, Saptharishi from the IAS Delhi cadre, who is slated to contest in Mayiladuthurai in Nagapattinam district, Sreedharan, a former AIADMK MP to now contest on the BSP ticket from south Madras and Ramasubramaniam who has been asked to contest from Coimbatore constituency.
The BSP's first list also includes the high-profile woman IAS Officer from Tamil Nadu Sivakami, who quit her job to join Mayawati's party. As someone working for the Dalits' cause for many years, Sivakami will try her luck from the Southernmost constituency of Kanyakumari this time, where the BJP had last week announced that one of its former Ministers Ponn. Radhakrishnan will contest.
Perunthagai said the BSP going it alone this time is "part of our policy". But a three-way split in the Dalits vote could indirectly help the main opposition AIADMK-led Front, which in the southern districts is largely dependent on the dominant community 'Thevar' votes, say sources.
The influential Dalit outfit in north Tamil Nadu, Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK) led by Thol Thirumavalavan, is still undecided, even as the other noted Dalit party in the South, Puthiya Tamizhagam (PT) headed by K Krishnasamy may team up with 'Amma', he also supported Jayalalithaa when she on fast over the Sri Lankan Tamils issue on Monday.
If the anti-incumbency votes are chipped away by these three Dalit parties, that far it could turn out to be to Jayalalithaa's advantage, whose 'vote-bank' is intact, say sources. But whether it will translate into more seats for the AIADMK only time will tell, adds 'Tada' Periyasamy, a Dalit leader in north Tamil Nadu.