The AIADMK swept the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu in 2014, winning 37 of the 39 seats in the state. The situation in both the party and the state has, however, changed dramatically after the death of J Jayalalithaa.
A section of the AIADMK believes that being part of a mega alliance is a better idea than contesting alone at a time when the party is battling incumbency, multiple protests across the state, and powerful opposition from both its Dravidian rivals DMK and the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam of TTV Dhinakaran, the nephew of Jaya’s close aide V K Sasikala.
This section in the AIADMK also feels that the support of the NDA, which includes S Ramadoss’s Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), will help the AIADMK win at least eight of the 21 Assembly seats for which byelections are scheduled.
The BJP (Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan) and PMK (Anbumani Ramadoss) won a seat each in Tamil Nadu in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Puducherry seat was won by R Radhakrishnan of the All India N R Congress, which too is a part of the NDA.
But there is another side to the AIADMK’s decision. While the number of seats each partner will get is yet to be finalized, the PMK, which has strong support among the OBC Vanniyars in northern Tamil Nadu, has already been allotted seven seats, and the BJP, five. Giving up such a large chunk of seats is likely to come with its own problems for the AIADMK.
One key question that is being raised is: Why should AIADMK cadres work for the BJP, which allegedly dismantled their party after Jaya’s death?
And again, why should AIADMK cadres campaign for PMK candidates, when Anbumani Ramadoss has been ridiculing the current AIADMK leadership as “mere cash collectors who have no knowledge of governance”, and has opposed the construction of a memorial to Jayalalithaa?
Senior AIADMK leader M Thambidurai, the MP from Karur and Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, has said: “The AIADMK has no responsibility to help grow the BJP in Tamil Nadu.”
It is clear that Dhinakaran already has control over 5% to 10% of AIADMK votes in several constituencies. He is likely to be the beneficiary of the votes of AIADMK supporters who are anti-BJP. Dhinakaran’s stock rose after he aggressively took on the BJP government at the Centre at the peak of the Income-Tax raids.
The question then is: Will a split in AIADMK vote eventually make the job of the DMK easier?
A senior AIADMK leader said the NDA shouldn’t have been given more than 10 seats in the alliance. “In the 2014 NDA alliance, DMDK (filmstar Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam) contested 14 seats and lost all, and the PMK won only one seat of the eight that it contested. Now when the NDA gets nearly 20 seats in our alliance and we are left with the remaining 20 or so, a section of AIADMK voters will vote for Dhinakaran, given their longstanding contempt for the BJP.”
And because Dhinakaran was unlikely to win a Lok Sabha seat on his own, this would ultimately end up helping the DMK, this leader said.
So at how many seats can the DMK get the advantage as a result of the AIADMK-NDA alliance backfiring?
This senior AIADMK leader made a grim prognosis: all seats at which the NDA partners contest, maybe with the exception of Pon Radhakrishnan’s Kanyakumari and Anbumani Ramadoss’s Dharmapuri, could be vulnerable to the DMK front.