By: Sushila Ravindranath
In Tamil Nadu, hectic alliance moves have set the stage.
When Narendra Modi was in Chennai a few days ago, it was expected that the BJP would finalise its alliance with the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), led by Vijayakanth. Not only did this not happen, existing partners, such as Vaiko of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), did not attend the meeting either. Although the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), headed by S.
Ramadoss, is expected to tie up with the BJP any moment now, nobody from the party showed up. In spite of hectic negotiations, no agreement has been reached on either seat- or constituency-sharing with the would-be alliance partners. The BJP’s key negotiators in the state have just not got their act together.
The man everybody is wooing, Vijayakanth (also known as Captain), is playing hardball with the BJP, Congress and DMK. At his recent, massive rally in Viluppuram district, he remained non-committal on alliances and took pot shots at his would-be partners.
The AIADMK supremo, J. Jayalalithaa, had announced months ago that her party would contest all the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state and she was not looking for partners. This put an end to speculation about her friendship with Narendra Modi and an alliance with the BJP. She has, however, graciously given a seat each to the CPI and CPM, who are over the moon with this generosity. If the Third Front happens, it will be useful for Jayalalithaa to have the Left parties backing her for prime minister. The state is full of posters and flex boards calling her the future prime minister. She has also declared that it is time for the country to have a prime minister from Tamil Nadu.
The BJP has Vaiko’s MDMK and the Indhiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK) in its kitty. Vaiko is seen as a spent force and the IJK is a lightweight. Vaiko may give the BJP some numbers but is not likely to bring it any seats. The DMDK, which contested on its own in the previous Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu, managed to get a vote share of 10 per cent. Subsequently, its vote share has dropped a bit, with its falling out with the AIADMK and some of its prominent MLAs leaving the party. It still has a reasonable following, which will be useful for any party it has an alliance with.
When the alliance talk began in the state, it was widely believed that the DMK, Congress and DMDK would come together and it would be a formidable force for Jayalalithaa to contend with. Subsequently, the DMK has announced that it will no longer go with the Congress. Both the Dalit parties, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Puthiya Tamilagam, and the Muslim outfits, the Indian Union Muslim League and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, are officially with the DMK. The DMK sources say that the door has been closed for Vijayakanth, although M.K. Stalin is supposed to favour such an alliance.
The DMDK is demanding 20 seats from the BJP, which the party is not willing to concede. The PMK is also demanding its pound of flesh and no agreement has been reached yet. Apparently, the PMK wants some of the constituencies that the DMDK is demanding. To make matters more difficult for the BJP, it also has to please Vaiko, who was the first one to tie up with it.
In any case, the BJP does not have enough candidates of its own to contest a considerable number of seats. It is popular in a few pockets but has never won seats in Tamil Nadu on its own. So far, BJP leaders have been evasive about the issue of seat-sharing. For the BJP to make an impact, it has to play the alliance game well.
Congress, meanwhile, is hoping against hope that the DMK will change its mind and enter an alliance with it. The Congress has maintained its Tamil Nadu vote share of 4 to 5 per cent for many years, though it is widely felt that this might come down a per cent or two. It has not won an election on its own in Tamil Nadu for decades. It is possibly more desperate than the others to get Captain on its side. However, if the DMK is firm about not entering into an alliance with Vijayakanth, it is better for Captain to go with the BJP and stay relevant. The Congress is likely to be the real loser in the coming elections if it is not able to get into any alliance.
Although popular wisdom has it that Jayalalithaa will sweep the Lok Sabha elections as she did the assembly polls three years ago, all is not well with the ruling party. There is simmering discontent. The power situation continues to be grim, there have been no major infrastructure projects and price rise has hit everybody. People are playing it close to the chest. Massive crowds have been gathering for Modi, Vijayakanth and Jayalalithaa rallies. Will the crowds translate into votes? It is early days yet.