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Intra-party tussles dog AIADMK’s likely alliance with BJP

Contradictory voices within the AIADMK has slowed down alliance efforts but analysts say the party will most likely tie up with the BJP ahead of the general elections,

india Updated: Jan 30, 2019 12:51 IST
M Manikandan and MC Rajan
M Manikandan and MC Rajan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
AIADMK,BJP,2109 general elections
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam offer sweet to party workers after paying floral tribute to AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran on his 102nd birth anniversary and 'Pongal' celebrations at party headquarters, in Chennai on January 17, 2019. (PTI Photo)

A Facebook post by AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP, V Maitreyan on his exclusion from the party panels entrusted with finalising seat-sharing, manifesto and campaign strategy could be an indication of an internal feud in the party which is preventing it from pursuing a likely alliance with the BJP, say analysts.

The AIADMK which swept the 2014 elections winning 37 of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu is now a much weaker party after it split following the death of J Jayalalithaa in December 2016.

Last month, BJP national secretary Ram Madhav had said that the party was working to build a strong political alliance in Tamil Nadu to challenge Congress and DMK. Madhav did not mention the AIADMK but Tamil Nadu’s ruling party is widely expected align with the BJP. But the AIADMK has not been able to take any decision yet on a possible electoral tie up.

While the AIADMK co-ordinators chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and his deputy O Panneerselvam (OPS) have constituted committees to carry out the seat-sharing talks with friendly parties, senior leaders of the party including Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, former minister C Ponnaiyan, Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar and Information Minister Kadambur Raju continue to criticise the BJP.

Earlier this month cooperation minister Sellur K Raju said the AIADMK is preparing to contest all 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu and the lone seat in neighbouring Puducherry.

The Facebook post on his exclusion from three election-related committees by Maitreyan, who is seen as a pro-BJP voice in the AIADMK, only underlines the fault lines in the AIADMK.

“I joined in AIADMK in 1999. Since then, AMMA (late CM Jayalalithaa) had included me in the committees to draft the manifesto and on seat-sharing talks in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2014 State Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. However, this time, my name was missing in the committees formed by our leaders,” Maitreyan said in his Facebook post.

The AIADMK is not happy that Maitreyan went public with his grievance. AIADMK spokesperson and former minister Gokula Indira said the MP should have expressed his concern to the party leadership instead of going public on Facebook.

“As a senior leader, he should have informed this to our coordinators. Every leader has his or her own style of functioning in steering the party. Our coordinators are likely to form more committees ahead of LS polls. So, people who have not been included in the seat-sharing committee and manifesto drafting committee could be accommodated in the other panels which are to be formed,” she said.

She further said that if everyone came up with their own demands, the party could not move ahead. But she ruled out disciplinary action against Maitreyan.

After Jayalalithaa, Maitreyan, who is a former BJP state president, was seen as the only prominent Brahmin leader in the AIADMK. When OPS revolted against Jayalalithaa’s close-aide VK Sasikala when she tried to become the Chief Minister, Maitreyan was the first to side with OPS. Despite being in the AIADMK, he continues to have good rapport with the BJP leadership.

He denied that his Facebook post was critical of the AIADMK. “I have just expressed my feelings. I did not criticize our party high command in my Facebook post. Also, I am not worried about being excluded in the committees,” he said.

Analysts say Maitreyan’s post could be a pointer to the polarisation within the AIADMK over entering into an alliance with the BJP.

“After Jayalalithaa’s demise, AIADMK has been weakened and the party is no more the formidable one it used to be. Within the party, there is no unanimity on electoral alliance and the party is speaking in different voices. And, if one reads between the lines, Maitreyan’s discontent is not out of a personal contradiction but a political one,” Ramu Manivannan, Professor and Head, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Madras University, said.

But, C Lakshmanan, Associate Professor with Madras Institute of Development Studies, maintains that the question of survival would eventually bring both the parties together.

“The AIADMK has been more close to the right wing ever since Jayalalithaa took over the reins of the party. It hasn’t changed. Also there are influential Other Backward Class cliques within the party, like the dominant Gounder, Nadar and Thevar which are pro-BJP. Yet, leaders from these sections also strive to protect their turf which is what is being played out. Ultimately, the question of survival will bring them together,” he reasoned.

First Published: Jan 30, 2019 11:54 IST