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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

In Tamil Nadu, BJP eyes civic polls to gain foothold, prepares for bargain with AIADMK

Not only had the Tamil Nadu government assured the Supreme Court that it would announce in October, the date for the civic polls, delayed by more than two years, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami was categorical about holding them. Last week, he told the media in Salem that the AIADMK government was committed to conducting the elections to local bodies.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2019 00:07 IST
MC Rajan
MC Rajan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP, despite being a national party, had to contend with contesting only 5 of the 39 seats in the state.
In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP, despite being a national party, had to contend with contesting only 5 of the 39 seats in the state.(HT PHOTO.)
         

Putting aside its disastrous performance in the Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state is eyeing the elections to local bodies as an opportunity to spread its wings and expand its sphere of influence right up to the villages.

No wonder, “Thamarai Malarnthey Theerum” – (Lotus is Bound to Bloom), continues to remain the war cry of BJP state unit chief Dr Tamilisai Soundarrajan.

Keeping this in mind, the party is now determined to demand its pound of flesh from the ruling AIADMK, its electoral ally and NDA constituent. Functionaries of the saffron party, enthused by the recent visit of BJP national president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, maintain that the BJP would try to get its legitimate share in the civic elections.

In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP, despite being a national party, had to contend with contesting only 5 of the 39 seats in the state. While all the five BJP candidates, including party state unit chief Tamilisai Soundarrajan and party national secretary, had to bite the dust, the AIADMK-led NDA could win only the seat of Theni.

However, it has not deterred the saffron party from flexing its muscles. Putting the past behind it, the leadership is gearing up for the civic elections. The entire party apparatus is engaged in the membership drive, an annual exercise in which the functionaries are expected to get involved. Coming as it is ahead of the expected announcement regarding the elections to panchayats, municipalities and city corporations, this massive exercise is being viewed as a prelude to the civic polls.

Not only had the Tamil Nadu government assured the Supreme Court that it would announce in October, the date for the civic polls, delayed by more than two years, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami was categorical about holding them. Last week, he told the media in Salem that the AIADMK government was committed to conducting the elections to local bodies.

The NDA in Tamil Nadu is intact and all the constituents are for retaining it for the civic polls, said BJP state general secretary Karu Nagarajan, adding that this would give the BJP the required advantage. He hoped that the party would get its legitimate share to contest and dispel the image that it was a marginal player.

“We accepted five LS seats in the parliamentary elections, given the coalition compulsions and the need to accommodate the wishes of our partners. That need not be the benchmark to approach the civic elections. During the ongoing membership drive, we witness a positive attitude among the people towards the BJP. We will make a hard bargain,” he said, making clear where the party’s focus is as of now.

According to BJP functionaries, following the visit of Amit Shah, the party can’t be expected to meekly accept whatever the AIADMK offers.

Well, the BJP is not alone in anxiously awaiting the civic elections to gain a foothold across the state, the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), the party of actor Kamal Hassan too is preparing for the same. And, it has engaged poll guru and Janata Dal United vice-president Prashant Kishor to advise it on the strategy.

While the BJP is very hopeful, analysts maintain that it is highly misplaced. In the view of political commentator Babu Jayakumar, the BJP lacks the popularity and organisational muscle to cash in on the elections to the local bodies.

“By contesting in more seats in an alliance, the party could increase its vote share. No doubt, it might engage in a hard bargain, but, we can’t expect the AIADMK to throw in the towel in the seat sharing talks. Further, party-wise elections are only for Municipalities and City Coporations while the panchayats are fought on non-party basis. In the latter, in should have influential local leaders, which is absent in the party except in its traditional stronghold of the communally polarised Kanyakumari district,” he explained.

However, he admitted that the party expanding its presence on the electoral map would give political work to its functionaries and cadre, thereby keeping them politically active.

First Published: Aug 24, 2019 00:07 IST

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