By Sushil Kutty
The alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is over, “khaalaas” as it is said in the Gulf countries — in UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia… After weeks and months of being taken down by the state unit of the BJP and with the differences bubbling over into public domain, AIADMK general-secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami couldn’t stomach Tamil Nadu BJP Chief K Annamalai’s airs anymore. The two had already assumed that the DMK would lose the next assembly elections and whoever headed the NDA alliance in Tamil Nadu would automatically become Stalin’s replacement. The sticking point, however, was that K Annamalai was too aggressive and sharp to Edappadi Palaniswami’s staid backroom sharpshooter image.
Palaniswami has been sounding out the BJP high command to rein in Annamalai and “let’s name an alliance convener” with Annamalai strictly out of the ambit. The BJP top brass chose to back its dark horse. That in short is why the BJP-AIADMK alliance fell through. Also, the “shrinking Dravidian space” coupled with the song and dance over Sanatana Dharma triggered by wannabe Sanatana-slayer Udhayanidhi Stalin.
That being said, the BJP could ill-afford giving its now lost Dravidian ally pole position in the alliance when the BJP electoral strategy is pitting Sanatana Dharma against Periyar’s Dravidian distractions in Tamil Nadu and the extremely fluid Sanatana Dharma against the strict Abrahamic religious orders in other parts of the country. Even the Sikh faith is a tight thread compared to the elastic and rubbery Sanatana faith.
So, the BJP leadership was not being lenient towards Annamalai as Edappadi K Palaniswami put it. For the BJP, Tamil Nadu was another laboratory to test its Hindutva-driven politics. That said, Annamalai’s aggression had become non-negotiable for the AIADMK. The BJP state unit Chief’s remarks were certainly getting incendiary over time. For example, casting aspersions on C N Annadurai, Tamil Nadu’s first Chief Minister and Dravidian icon. Annamalai’s irreverence did not sit well with Edappadi. The alliance wasn’t going to last any further than where it stood. Like one AIADMK politician said, the “alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party was non-existent” and would go bust by the 2024 general elections.
The BJP doesn’t subscribe to the theory that Annamalai is a “destructive pest”. And neither is he a stormy petrel. His anti-AIADMK remarks kept him in the news and this was getting Edappadi hot under the collar. Tamil Nadu politics is changing and K Annamalai is the spearhead of the change. MK Stalin also shouldn’t get complacent. The 46-year-old Udhayanidhi Stalin is not getting younger and cannot play a hero forever like Salman Khan or/and SRK, not forgetting the local favourite, Rajnikanth.
But to expect Annamalai would placidly play second fiddle to Palaniswami was idiocy. The BJP wouldn’t have agreed to Palaniswami heading the TN state NDA. Palaniswami’s hush-hush meeting with Amit Shah in New Delhi earlier this month notwithstanding. An AIADMK delegation also met BJP president J P Nadda and central minister Piyush Goyal. But none of the powwows counted. The widening gap between the AIADMK and BJP was unbridgeable.
The AIADMK leaders were at their errand’s end. They tried every gambit, from the “self-respect card” to the “we demand action-card”. But to expect Shah and Nadda to buckle under pressure was a fool’s errand. The AIADMK’s narrative hunt continued. The humiliation from Annamalai continued. The AIADMK-BJP alliance was destined to come unstuck. However, like it or not, it’s a short-term victory for Annamalai and a setback for Edappadi Palaniswami.
Having said that, South India, other than Karnataka, is still virgin territory for the Bharatiya Janata Party. Tamil Nadu stays strictly out of the BJP’s orbit. And Kerala is God’s Own Country while Karnataka is fickle mistress. The BJP’s alliance with former Prime Minister HD Devegowda’s Janata Dal Secular had worked and unworked. Now, after the Karnataka assembly elections in which both parties sustained defeat, there is an understanding of sorts which will stand till the Lok Sabha elections, hopefully.
The coming together of the INDI-Alliance has thrown a spanner in the BJP+ works down South. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah will most definitely cash in their chips without having the ‘Onam Sadya’ in Kerala and/or ‘Pongal’ in Tamil Nadu unless Annamalai surprises Edappadi Palaniswami and MK Stalin to romp home with the Sengol in a few of the Lok Sabha seats the BJP contests. The enduring south story, however, is that the BJP’s forays down south have been unsuccessful expeditions and the party is seen as an invading force of north India’s Brahmin and Baniya though lakhs of north Indians have made South India their permanent home.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and INDI-Alliance strategist MK Stalin is acutely aware that Tamil Nadu of all the southern states is no country for the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi thought digging up Jawaharlal Nehru’s Sengol and establishing it in the New Parliament would enchant the South, especially Tamil Nadu, enough to extend BJP’s footprints in the South. But things haven’t worked as planned. The BJP’s plans for stitching up alliances south of the Vindhyas are snapping like stressed rubber-bands. Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala…the BJP is sans alliance in all these states. There is only Karnataka left and Karnataka had spoken its mind just a few months ago; it cannot change so soon, will it? (IPA Service)