Mission TN: BJP steps up efforts to unite AIADMK factions, bring them into NDA fold

By voting in favour of Ram Nath Kovind for the President’s post, the two AIADMK factions have already declared an informal alliance with the BJP government at the Centre.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2017 13:14 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to cast his vote in the presidential election at the Parliament House in New Delhi.(Reuters File)

After decimating its political rivals in Bihar and Gujarat, the BJP has now turned its attention towards Tamil Nadu in the south.

Barely a day had passed since the saffron party successfully lured Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar into its fold that the people of southern Tamil Nadu found Prime Minister Narendra Modi waxing eloquent about late chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s glory in their midst. Even as he publicly reached out to potential voters with promises of central aid, behind-the-curtain attempts were being made to unite the two warring factions of the AIADMK – led by chief minister EK Palanisamy and O Panneerselvam – under an ever-expanding NDA umbrella.

“The BJP is trying its best to unite the two factions, and what’s wrong with that? We must unite to be strong,” said AIADMK spokesperson CR Saraswathi. She, however, rejected reports that her party plans to join the NDA anytime in the immediate future.

However, the BJP’s designs to bring the two factions together face a major threat from TTV Dinakaran, nephew of AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, who has called a meeting on August 5 in a clear-cut hint that he intends to assume full charge of party affairs. “It must be noted that 37 MLAs side with Dinakaran. While he does not want to be in the government, Dinakaran wants to handle party affairs – like he had been doing in the past,” Saraswathi said.

Sources close to the ruling faction indicated that Dinakaran may be officially prevented from convening the meeting.

By voting in favour of Ram Nath Kovind for the President’s post, the two AIADMK factions have already declared an informal alliance with the BJP government at the Centre. “There is nothing wrong if the AIADMK eventually enters the NDA, if that means increasing Tamil Nadu’s representation in the union council of ministers,” said a senior party leader.

With the exception of Pon Radhakrishnan, no minister from the state figures in the union council of ministers. Though commerce and industry minister Nirmala Seetharaman hails from Tamil Nadu, she represents Karnataka in the Rajya Sabha.

The untimely demise of Jayalalithaa has left a vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics. Local BJP leaders are confident that the party – aided by widespread approval for the Narendra Modi government’s policies and programmes – will find greater acceptance in the state in such circumstances.

AIADMK leaders, meanwhile, admit that coming to power in the next assembly election will be a tough proposition if the two factions fail to unite. “And if the BJP can help us get together, that would be a welcome development,” one of them said on the condition of anonymity.

The saffron party has its eyes set on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when it will need a strong AIADMK to prop it back into prominence. “It would help if the AIADMK comes aboard before that too, because it would bolster the NDA’s numbers in the Rajya Sabha,” said professor Ramu Manivannan, a political expert affiliated to the University of Madras.

First Published: Aug 01, 2017 09:30 IST