Editorial: Marriage of little convenience

Despite BJP making inroads in most other states, it is yet to penetrate the Dravidian stronghold. It is interesting to examine why BJP hasn’t been able to crack the TN code.
Editorial: Marriage of little convenience


The electoral alliance between the AIADMK and the BJP, cemented by Union Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah during his recent visit here, continues to resemble an unhappy marriage, but one where both partners agree to stay together, ostensibly for the ‘children’. There appears nothing in common between the two partners, nor is there any love which in this case could be loosely interpreted as a minimum concern for the other party. 
After L Murugan took charge as the head of the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP in March this year, the unhappiness has spilled out in the open. In the most recent run-in, AIADMK leaders across TN were aghast after Murugan declared the National Democratic Alliance headed by BJP would decide on the Chief Ministerial candidate. The vitriolic response to Murugan’s comment by some AIADMK ministers would leave one’s ears red. 
While the TN BJP leaders clarified the very next day that Edappadi K Palaniswami was their CM candidate and Murugan only meant that it would be appropriate for his party high command to comment on such matters, it would be naïve to take his comment at face value as this not the first time Murugan has locked horns with the AIADMK. 
The BJP held a Vel Yatra even as the pandemic was raging across TN and it remains fresh in public memory. Defying the AIADMK’s ban on public gatherings as part of COVID control, BJP leaders and cadre gathered in large numbers in several parts of the state courted arrest and even accused AIADMK of throttling democratic rights. 
While Murugan’s ambitious efforts to make his party’s presence felt in TN’s political circles and his relative success in poaching prominent personalities such as Khushboo Sundar, former IPS officer K Annamalai, DMK leader VP Duraisamy and even former Madras High Court Advocates’ Association President Paul Kanagaraj can be commended, these tactics may not contribute much their meagre vote bank which lies between 2-3%, if the last two assembly polls are anything to go by. 
Despite BJP making inroads in most other states, it is yet to penetrate the Dravidian stronghold. It is interesting to examine why BJP hasn’t been able to crack the TN code. One reason could be the lack of a clear strategy. Vel Yatras and Rath Yatras might work elsewhere but not in TN, which is divided between believers (AIADMK) and the rationalists (DMK). At best, these tactics may only deplete the vote bank of their alliance partner. 
Even at the national level, BJP’s main poll plank, be it the 2014 or 2019 Lok Sabha polls, had been progress, development and rooting out corruption while Hindutva was put on the back-burner. In TN, partnering with an incumbent government of two full terms might not offer the state BJP any new campaign material for progress or development. On the contrary, they would have to defend their partner against DMK who has just submitted a 98-page dossier on AIADMK ministers’ corrupt practices to the Governor demanding swift action. 
As far as AIADMK is concerned, BJP is helpful at the Centre, but not at the state. Having won both the 2011 and 2016 assembly elections without support from the saffron brigade and then receiving a drubbing in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls after forging an alliance, AIADMK is not benefitting much from the arrangement. Additionally, the Centre’s tough stand viz-a-viz farmers’ protests and other contentious issues are likely to pull away more votes from them. AIADMK would need the support of the NDA government a lot more if they lose the polls to keep the party from breaking apart and to remain relevant. For BJP, Vel Yatras and Hindutva rhetoric might find some traction among TN’s believers when the DMK is in power and the AIADMK is weak and vulnerable. But till then, despite having no complementary traits, the two parties seem all set for yet another pas de deux. And one hopes that they will manage this duet with some grace and without stepping on each other’s toes.

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