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BJP eyes southern promises

BJP eyes southern promises
Tamil Nadu political scene is now astir, with BJP and other state-level parties looking ambitiously for a hold on power through new alignments in the run-up to the 2016 Assembly elections, and thus hoping to open a new chapter in the state’s chequered politics, hitherto dominated by two Dravidian majors alternately.

Undoubtedly, political space dramatically opened up in the wake of the ruling AIADMK leader Ms Jayalalithaa’s conviction and sentence in the disproportionate assets case in September. And its traditional rival, DMK, twice humiliated in crushing defeats by her, is no less in discomfort over corruption charges foisted on some of its leading lights.

For moments DMK led by Mr Karunanidhi (90) was in celebratory mood over Jaya’s predicament but it all proved to be short-lived as Mr A Raja, former telecommunications minister, in UPA Government and a few others, now stand charged before a special court in New Delhi, related to 2G telecom scam.

With the next Assembly polls still 18 months away and the AIADMK government headed by Mr O Panneerselvam is comfortably placed and is following guidelines set by the party supremo- it may be premature for the BJP or other smaller Dravidian outfits to become wistful or conjure up possible alignments.

But BJP, desperately trying to become a force in Tamil Nadu politics since the Lok Sabha elections in May this year when the party got its first Lok Sabha seat in the state, is on an overdrive and it counts on spread of ‘Modi wave’ to Tamil Nadu and by entering into the type of alliance it attempted, though with little gains, for the Lok Sabha poll. Party sources say for BJP Tamil Nadu has become the ‘epicenter’ of activities aimed at enlarging its presence in the southern region. They also claim increasing popularity for BJP in Tamil Nadu with its membership of some seven lakhs now totaling over 10 lakhs, a significant rise for what is seen as a marginal player.

Whatever be the moves of BJP and other parties like DMDK, PMK and MDMK which had distanced themselves from time to time from the AIADMK or DMK, the outlook is still uncertain at this stage, as much would depend on how and when the two Dravidian rivals come out of their ordeals. For ex-chief minister Ms. Jayalalithaa, now on bail, the Supreme Court has laid down strict time-lines- for the accused to complete her papers by Dec 18. Then, the apex court can give direction to Karnataka High Court to hear ‘in three months’ her appeal against conviction and sentence with fine and four years in prison.

For her part, Ms. Jayalalithaa, still riding a popular wave, in a statement in Chennai after coming out on bail from Bangalore jail, expressed confidence of coming out of the present tribulation, like many challenges she had ‘successfully’ faced in the past. She remained dedicated in leading AIADMK, an assurance given to her mentor and the party founder, M G Ramachandran, with the prime goal being- ‘the well-being of the people of Tamil Nadu’.

The outcome of disposal of her appeal will determine the state’s political scenario before the assembly elections. It equally applies to the fate of Mr Karunanidhi’s DMK, linked to the verdict in the cases involving Mr Raja, Ms Kanimozhi, MP and the patriarch’s daughter and his wife Dayalu Ammal and others.

Meanwhile, Mr M K Stalin,  favoured son of Mr Karunanidhi as his successor, is undauntedly exploring a political realignment meeting with former adversaries like MDMK’s Mr Vaiko and others. Mr Karunanidhi said he and Vaiko were ‘old friends’. All these state leaders are floating on a sea of uncertainties. DMK, mauled in 2011 assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha elections in which it failed to score a single seat, is putting up a brave front in the hope of Ms. Jayalalithaa losing her case.

The turn in the political situation has also led to other developments, notably the two factions of the T N Congress with its poor showing in Lok Sabha elections, coming out in the open for a split. The group led by Mr G K Vasan, former Minister of Shipping, has walked out and plans to restore the Tamil Manila Congress, which had been formed by the late Mr G K Moopanar, father of Mr Vasan, in 1990S,and was committed to bringing back the ‘Kamraj rule’ of mid-sixties in the State.

The other apparently bigger group with a wider following will now be headed by a highly articulate campaigner Mr E V K S Elangovan, who is taking over the reins of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, at a time of inner party crisis and a churning in the political climate. Congress sources said that Mr Elangovan’s choice was at the intervention of Mr Rahul Gandhi.

In 2006, Mr Elangovan had upset the DMK Chief Mr Karunanidhi by demanding a share of power for the Congress in the state, just like the DMK shared power in the union government as a constituent of the UPA. Mr Karunanidhi did not oblige but in 2011 state elections, DMK itself was reduced to a minority party in the Assembly.

Mr Elangovan is now expected to lead a cohesive party which includes former finance minister P Chidambaram, and face up to the emerging challenges from BJP or any ‘mega alliance’ that Mr Stalin dreams of at present.  The state Congress headquarters in Chennai presented a picture of packed auditorium and solid backing for Mr Elangovan from all sections of Congressmen sinking differences.

Mr Elangovan made a fervent appeal to Mr Vasan to reconsider a move to form a breakaway party and remain in the Congress as loyal as he had been in the past. Greeting the new president of TNCC, Mr P Chidambaram said, ‘The TNCC chief is common to all. My request to him would be that he should consult everyone while taking decisions,’ he told the large Congress assembly. Everyone should stay ‘united’ and help him by strengthening the party, he said.

The Congress lost power to DMK in 1967 and since then Tamil Nadu has gone through rule by the two major Dravidian parties. The Congress opted to be an ally of one or the other of these parties and gained seats in the Assembly but never shared power even when DMK leader Mr Karunanidhi ran a minority government between 2006-2011 with Congress support.

Ruling AIADMK is unperturbed by the goings-on among different parties with an air of confidence that their leader would win in the appeal and resume leadership to carry forward her economic and social welfare policies which had raised Tamil Nadu’s stature and also earned her unprecedented popularity. This was demonstrated in her stunning victory in the Lok Sabha elections winning 37 out of 39 seats to make AIADMK the third largest party in Parliament. IPA

S Sethuraman

S Sethuraman

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