2019 Lok Sabha elections: BJP wants pre-poll pact in Tamil Nadu by October | india news | Hindustan Times
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2019 Lok Sabha elections: BJP wants pre-poll pact in Tamil Nadu by October

Tamil Nadu is set to witness a multi-cornered contest with two main regional players – the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the DMK – and over half a dozen other smaller parties vying for the 39 Lok Sabha seats.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2018 07:24 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP,Tamil Nadu,Pre-poll pact
Amit Shah is likely to attend a memorial meeting for Karunanidhi in Chennai on Thursday. (AFP)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would announce an alliance in October with a regional player in Tamil Nadu for the 2019 national election, a leader said quoting the party’s president, Amit Shah, who gave the information to the state unit.

Tamil Nadu has the highest Lok Sabha seats (39) after Uttar Pradesh (80), Maharashtra (48), West Bengal (42) and Bihar (40). It is crucial for the BJP to make inroads into states like Tamil Nadu since it had in 2014 peaked in other big states like Uttar Pradesh, where it won 71 seats.

“Shah told us during his visit in July that there will be an alliance between the BJP and a regional player and a formal announcement will be made by October,” the leader said on condition of anonymity without elaborating on which party the BJP will ally with.

“We have channels of communication open with both (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam patriarch Karunanidhi’s sons MK) Stalin and Alagiri,” a second BJP leader said.

Karunanidhi, who passed away earlier this month, had named Stalin as his successor. Stalin is likely to succeed his father as the DMK chief while Alagiri has claimed support of Karunanidhi’s “true and loyal” followers. Shah is likely to attend a memorial meeting for Karunanidhi in Chennai on Thursday. “There is no reason for us to reject the DMK’s invite,” a BJP leader said.

Shah’s possibility of attending the event is seen in the light of the BJP’s plans to forge the alliance.

P Muralidhar Rao, BJP’s general secretary in-charge of Tamil Nadu, had held a 20-minute meeting with Alagiri ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Chennai to pay tributes to Karunanidhi on August 8. It was seen BJP’s attempt to reach out to Stalin’s estranged brother.

Alagiri subsequently wrote to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s foster daughter after his death and described the BJP veteran as a “great person”, who showed great interest in Tamil language and culture.

The BJP had fielded nine Lok Sabha candidates in Tamil Nadu in 2014 when it contested the election in alliance with six smaller regional parties. It won just one and polled 22.22 lakh votes. The Congress drew a blank and polled just 17.51 lakh votes despite fielding 39 candidates.

The BJP’s alliance disintegrated in 2016 when the assembly elections were held in Tamil Nadu. The party’s votes dropped to 12.28 lakh. The Congress, which had an alliance with the DMK, polled 27.74 lakh votes.

“We have more votes than the Congress in Tamil Nadu,” a BJP general secretary said. “When the regional parties will decide to align with a national party, the BJP will have an edge over the Congress.”

Tamil Nadu is set to witness a multi-cornered contest with two main regional players – the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the DMK – and over half a dozen other smaller parties vying for the 39 Lok Sabha seats.

The AIADMK is struggling with the leadership tussle between TTV Dhinakaran and chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. Dhinakaran is the nephew of former late chief minister J Jyalalithaa’s loyalist, VK Sasikala.

Milan Vaishnav, the director and a senior fellow in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Shah and the BJP have been working to shape Tamil politics to their advantage since Jayalalithaa’s death.

The Telugu Desam Party’s exit from the National Democratic Alliance and a lack of understanding with the Shiv Sena for 2019, too, has made states like Tamil Nadu crucial for the BJP.

“However, the BJP’s leverage has declined over the past year with the narrowing of their perceived electoral advantage. Any potential Tamil ally will be able to drive a hard bargain,” Vaishnav said.

Observer Research Foundation’s senior fellow N Sathiya Moorthy said a pre-poll alliance will be difficult for the BJP. “Hindutva and minority-related issues will be a problem, particularly for a party like the DMK.” He said the DMK left the NDA ahead of the 2004 election because it felt continuing with the BJP was hurting its interest.

“AIADMK, under J Jayalalithaa, had transferable votes. That is questionable now. Moreover, an alliance with TTV Dhinakaran, against whom the Centre has filed so many cases, can hurt the prime minister’s clean image.”

Ashoka University’s political science assistant professor Gilles Verniers said the national parties may have to keep renegotiating the terms as the situation unfolds. “The first challenge for the BJP (or the Congress) is to find reliable interlocutors to negotiate an alliance, as both the DMK and the AIADMK are currently embroiled in a messy and poorly executed succession transition.”

First Published: Aug 27, 2018 07:13 IST