By S. Sethuraman
The BJP in Tamil Nadu reckons on a break-through in the 2016 assembly elections to put itself in a formidable position – from zero to a sizeable political strength – to help it steer the state away from ‘family politics and corrupt regimes’ of Dravidian parties over decades.
Its ambitions arose out of the uncertainty on the outcome of the ruling AIADMK supremo Ms. Jayalalithaa’s appeal against her conviction and a weakening of Mr Karunanidhi’s DMK in the wake of electoral setbacks and corruption cases involving a couple of party leaders.
There is no doubt a crack-up within the party structure of DMK and the nonagenarian seems to have lost his grip over his followers. One of its front-men, Mr D Napolean, a former DMK Minister in UPA-II, embraced BJP in the presence of visiting BJP President Mr Amit Shah on December 21, along with a couple of artists and a former IPS officer. More may be in line to link their future with the BJP of Modi-Shah duo, reports said.
After mutely watching Mr Amit Shah’s foray and his assertions of ending Dravidian parties’ rule, the DMK and other Dravidian parties have let out steam against the Modi Government for allowing the Sangh parivar outfits carry on with “ghar wapsi” (re-conversion) programmes detrimental to “India’s secularism and pluralistic nature”.
One of the parties in the BJP-led alliance in Lok Sabha elections, the PMK of Dr Ramadoss castigated the NDA Government for the proposed anti-conversion law and reminded its leadership that the mandate it got in May last was to work for development and alleviate the concerns of the poor, and “not to create Hindu rule”.
DMK leader Mr Karunanidhi also roundly condemned the Modi Government over issues of reconversion and Home Ministry’s circulars on imposition of Hindi and Sanskrit on the country. In effect, Mr Shah’s visit may have helped re-kindle the Dravidian parties to re-assert their primacy in the State, whatever the dissensions within them.
Barring PMK which took one of the two seats gained by the BJP-led alliance in Lok Sabha (all the other 37 seats of Tamil Nadu having been bagged by Ms. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK), the other poll allies of BJP have now virtually turned against NDA, notably Mr Vaiko’s MDMK.
Undaunted, the TN BJP cadres rolled out a red carpet welcome for the maiden visit of the party President, the tough-talking Mr Amit Shah and Mr Modi’s alter ego in engineering plans to ‘saffronise’ the whole of India. Mr Shah’s mission for 2016 polls is to begin strengthening BJP in the coastal states including Tamil Nadu and West Bengal to become the number one party.
BJP is already having wordy duels with West Bengal Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee in its bid to wrest power from her TMC. Mr Shah has his eye also on Kerala he visited to announce his party would contest for all seats in the local body elections early in 2015 and in the assembly poll in 2016. He sees “things are looking up” for his party in Kerala too.
The BJP President’s other ambitions for his party are to win to rule in Telengana in the next election in 2019, ousting the TRS of Mr K Chandrasekhar Rao, and also gain a majority in AP, where it had aligned with Mr Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP for the 2014 elections and currently shares power at the state level.
Mr Shah’s line everywhere is that BJP ruled states have become necessary to carry forward the “good work” that the development-focussed Modi Government was already doing. The latter needs to be sustained with BJP Governments in most states. But in whatever way he can bamboozle, Mr Shah has a clear strategy underlying his goals for the states where polls are due over the next couple of years.
In Tamil Nadu, Mr Shah asked his party cadres to spread out to all corners of the state as “ambassadors of Prime Minister Modi” and enroll 60 lakh members, which would help to expand the party’s base. Once that is achieved, he asserts, no party would be able to prevent BJP from taking the reins of power. For Kerala, his target of membership is 40 lakh.
Mr Shah, who was given a feisty welcome by the Tamil Nadu BJP, went hammer and tongs for the DMK and the Congress over scams and for “family and dynastic rule” that marked their regimes. At a well-attended meeting on the outskirts of Chennai, Mr Shah declared that the reign of the Dravidian parties was set to end.
While avoiding direct reference to Ms. Jayalalithaa’s ruling AIADMK, Mr Shah let his leading partymen in the state to pour venom on all without exception. The BJP functionary in charge of Tamil Nadu rebuked the government of a party, which won the assembly and Lok Sabha elections, being led by one who reportedly refuses to sit on the CM’s chair.
Ms. Jayalalithaa, as Chief Minister until her conviction, had maintained cordial relations with Mr Modi as PM and the latter also reciprocated. In lashing out against Dravidian parties and the Congress, in particular Mr Rahul Gandhi, Mr Shah contended that development had taken a back-seat even in Tamil Nadu unlike BJP-ruled states.
The sweep of Mr Shah’s blunt remarks applied to all Dravidian outfits including the ones which his party had courted for an alliance before the Lok Sabha election. While PMK is still committed to support NDA, the relatively stronger DMDK of cine-actor Captain Vijay Kant remains indifferent and took no notice of Mr Shah’s visit.
The Congress, which split with the former Shipping Minister Mr G K Vasan reviving the Tamil Manila Congress as rival, seems to be in a state of hibernation. Mr Vasan said his party would go all out to oppose the BJP agenda of encouraging activities of RSS and VHP.
Mr Shah had gone about making tall claims of successes of the Modi Government on several fronts including bringing down fuel prices and inflation, ensuring opening of bank account for millions, and providing jobs for youth. His confidence of BJP coming to power in 2016 is set against the background of what he sees as a weakening of the Dravidian majors and the split in the State Congress.
Mr Shah said NDA would contest the 2016 elections in Tamil Nadu after naming its chief ministerial candidate. And amid assumptions of a lingering ‘Modi wave’, Mr Shah also divulged a move to attract “new faces” – prominent Tamils including celebrities – to gain greater acceptability for the NDA Government.
A near 20 per cent vote share for the BJP-led alliance in the state in the Lok Sabha elections provides the foundation for Mr Shah’s confidence. But BJP’s own vote share was a mere 5 per cent of that, the rest being shared by DMDK, PMK and MDMK.
For the silent AIADMK, the supporters keep praying for Ms. Jayalalithaa’s success in her appeal to be heard and concluded by a special bench of the High Court in Bangalore over the next three to four months, January to April. This outcome will largely determine the course of politics in Tamil Nadu and the line-up of forces for the battle which becomes due in May 2016. (IPA Service)