A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee with his let-bygones-be-bygones remarks, he called up AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa on Monday to congratulate her on her acquittal in the disproportionate assets case.
Jayalalithaa, who is known to have good equation with Modi, looks set to return as chief minister of Tamil Nadu and she could be a useful partner in Modi’s “Team India” that he batted for in Kolkata on Sunday.
With just 11 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, the AIADMK may not be a big player in the Upper House where the government is in a minority but the Dravidian party could play a crucial role when things go down to the wire as in the case of the Constitution amendment bill to roll out the goods and services tax. While the AIADMK opposes the GST bill, ruling party strategists are hopeful of persuading Jayalalithaa to not block it in the Rajya Sabha.
The NDA government may need to keep Jayalalithaa in good humour but her return to power could be a blow to the BJP’s ambition for expansion in Tamil Nadu. Her return is expected to fill the “vacuum” in state politics that the BJP was eyeing to emerge as a third force.
The “sympathy” for Amma, as Jaya is popularly called, may only help consolidate her grip over the state.
The AIADMK defeated the DMK by a margin of nearly 100,000 votes in the by-election for the Srirangam assembly seat, vacated by Jayalalithaa, while the BJP polled just 5,000 votes. Tamil Nadu goes to the polls in May next year and there is already a buzz that Jayalalithaa may go in for early elections, possibly around December.
The BJP has been attempting to cobble up a “third front” in the southern state and increase its own footprint through increased membership, but Jayalalithaa’s return to the centrestage will take the fizz out of its entire campaign.
The ruling party at the Centre may find it difficult to make an aggressive pitch against the AIADMK government. BJP leaders admit that given their limited stake and not so bright prospects in the immediate future, the best strategy would be to develop a workable relationship with Jayalalithaa.