With the Lok Sabha elections set to be held soon, the AIADMK formalised its expected tie-up with the Left parties — a partnership that would offer numbers to the comrades in a state where they are insignificant, while providing a national platform to the regional party that is eyeing a major post-poll role in Delhi politics.
A day after the CPI and AIADMK announced their alliance, it was CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat’s turn to visit AIADMK general secretary and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at her Poes Garden residence here on Monday. “We expect that this alliance will be very successful,” said Jaya, while announcing her party’s decision to enter into an alliance with the CPI(M) for the Lok Sabha elections.
Pointing out that the two parties were not new to each other — they contested the last Lok Sabha and Assembly polls together — Karat said: “We are confident that this alliance will ensure success in Tamil Nadu, and will also contribute to providing an alternative to the country.”
This was a much-expected alliance — the latest and strongest indicator came when Jaya backed CPI(M) candidate T K Rangarajan for the Rajya Sabha about a week back. Last year, she extended similar support to return CPI’s D Raja to the Rajya Sabha.
Despite being active in the state for decades, the comrades have a limited role in electoral politics in Tamil Nadu where caste and other identities play a major role. The workers’ unions affiliated to these two parties are strong in only a few constituencies like North Chennai, Coimbatore and Tirupur, while they have roots in a handful of places like Madurai and Nagapattinam. This limited presence means the CPI(M) and CPI need the support of a strong regional party to win elections at all levels. For instance, in the 2009 general elections, the CPI’s vote share was 2.85 per cent while the CPI(M)’s was 2.20 per cent. But they still managed to win a seat each as they contested along with the AIADMK, MDMK and PMK. Even in the Assembly elections, the CPI (1.97 pc) and CPI(M) (2.41 pc) were helped by the regional alliance leader to win nine and 10 seats respectively.
On the other hand, Jaya’s alliance with the Left is not an act of political philanthropy as the numbers may suggest. What they bring to the table in return for votes is a national platform for Jaya as an influential regional player, one who may even have a shot at being the next Prime Minister if the figures tally in such a way after the results are announced. This makes the Left parties an important component, despite lacking the numbers that most other regional outfits have to offer.
“There are a large number of non-Congress, non-BJP parties which have substantial support and strength in this country. This will be reflected in the coming elections,” said Karat, adding that the issue of Prime Minister would be discussed after the elections.
CPI leader A B Bardhan was more forthcoming when he told the media on Sunday that the prospects of Jaya becoming the Prime Minister would open up if the alliance records a strong performance in the elections.
Perhaps aware that a premature projection of her name would not sit well with other regional parties whose leaders have similar ambitions of their own, Jaya underplayed the chances of her becoming the Prime Minister, maybe a touch too intensely, while intervening to answer a question posed to Karat in this regard.
“I want to make one thing clear to all the media: This is not the time for anyone to discuss and decide who the next Prime Minister would be. It is pointless for any political party to enter into such discussions now. The question on who the next Prime Minister would be will arise only after the results are out,” she said.
The announcement on Monday was brought about by a tactical reassessment by the AIADMK chief, who was counted as a potential NDA ally not so long ago due to her personal rapport with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. What changed in the past few months is the view that Tamil Nadu — and Jaya — may have a bigger than expected role to play in the event of a fractured result in the Hindi heartland. In effect, to her party cadre at least, this has made her a contender rather than a catalyst, a chance to become the queen instead of a kingmaker.
Over and above the significant number of Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu (39), it is the propensity of the state to elect one front en masse that makes it a crucial factor in the coming days. A case in point is the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, in which the DMK-led front swept all the seats to form one of the important pillars on which UPA was built.
A decade later, if a series of “ifs” fall in place — if Jaya wins a majority of these seats, if the BJP falls way short of a reasonable number, and if the rest of the seats are divided among a host of regional parties — the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has as good a chance as her “friend” and Gujarat counterpart. When asked a direct question about her friendship with Modi in the context of prime ministerial ambitions, Jaya refused to comment and wound up the press conference.
However, it is too early to predict whether she would remain steadfast in her commitment for a “secular, democratic alternative” at the Centre if the result does not meet her expectations.
While Karat was right in noting that the two parties have formed coalitions earlier, what he did not elaborate on was the nature of the relationship after the elections were over. In October 2011, for instance, the Left parties were stunned by the AIADMK’s decision to face the local body polls on its own, as it came merely months after they successfully faced the Assembly elections in partnership. CPI(M) state secretary G Ramakrishnan, who had then charged her with betrayal, was present during Karat’s meeting with Jaya on Monday.