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Here, BJP banks on relatives

Most BJP men are banking on dedicated vote-banks but not big enough to swing a win, reports GC Shekhar.

india Updated: May 06, 2006 14:54 IST
GC Shekhar

It's hard getting off the blocks when you know you are running a losing race.

So when BJP candidate Ochaa Thevar, a successful businessman in Thirumangalam town near Madurai, zips off in his Qualis on his campaign trek, his zeal surprises you.

"I have many relatives here who'll vote for me. But then, this is an AIADMK stronghold," he admits with candour.

This is how most BJP candidates in the state are placed: banking on small, dedicated vote-banks but not big enough to swing a win. After the AIADMK quietly dumped the BJP for the 2004 rout, the party is now contesting 183 seats with 18 of its allies fighting in 39 seats.

Take Kanti Lal. This marwari businessman hopes that 40 per cent of the Park Town voters in Chennai — those from his community — will vote for him and that should be good enough for a win. But clearly, he can't bank on his community to vote en bloc.

"There are many among us who have traditionally voted for the DMK or AIADMK. Those votes are unlikely to change. How do you explain the votes the DMK polled here in the 2004 Lok Sabha election even though the AIADMK and BJP were in league?" asked an electrical businessman.

Though the party's state leaders identify 10 seats as winnable, even the most hardcore BJP loyalist admits that the party has an outside chance only in Thali and Hosur near the Karnataka border and in Padmanabhapuram down south.

The party has roped in its top national leaders and Karnataka ministers to campaign in Thali and Hosur.

But the BJP is no pushover. Where it cannot win, it can play spoiler and the AIADMK is likely to be affected.

"Most Brahmins usually vote for the AIADMK but after the Sankaracharya arrest, they will vote for the BJP just to defeat AIADMK," said a senior state functionary.

Since this could be one of the closest elections with winning margins varying between two and five per cent, the BJP could affect the AIADMK's chances in at least 40 seats, he said.

The party had five seats in the last assembly and would be lucky if it can get at least one in the next one.