Can the BJP alliance emerge as a force in Tamil Nadu?
by Ashok B Sharma on 15 Apr 2014 1 Comment

The careful social engineering done by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in forging a rainbow alliance with smaller Dravidian parties may help in boosting its winning prospects in at least four parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu. The expectations can rise for the NDA alliance in the state if it can make its way between two formidable forces – the DMK and the AIADMK.


Notwithstanding the Modi wave, the BJP has been looked upon as a north India party and needs alliances with local parties to be reckoned as a force in the highly polarised politics of the AIADMK and the DMK.


The BJP has brought actor-politician Vijaykant’s DMDK, PMK founded by S Ramadoss, Vaiko-led MDMK and IJK and KMDK in Tamil Nadu and All India NR Congress in Puducherry in to the NDA fold. The DMDK has about 8% to 10% vote, mostly amongst Telugu-speaking people. The PMK enjoys about 7% vote among the Vanniyars in the northern part of the state. The MDMK has about 4% vote particularly among the Naicker caste. The KMDK has its base among the Gounder caste in the western part of the state.


These parties have decided to bury their hatchet while joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). But this seems far from over. In the lone Puducherry parliamentary constituency, the PMK has fielded Anantharaman against the official NDA candidate Radhakrishan of NR Congress. Incidentally both Radhakrishan and Anantharaman belong to the same Vanniyar caste


Initially the DMDK and the PMK avoided reference to each other during the campaign and focused on Modi’s “model of good governance” in electioneering, but now they have come together to support each others’ candidate after the DMDK declared support to the PMK’s candidate in Puducherry Anantharaman against the All India NR Congress candidate. This new found bonhomie is expected to bring the grassroots level workers of PMK and DMDK together on the ground.


While differences between other local alliance partners remain, the BJP is hopeful of pulling in support from individual partners to add to its 4% support base. It is especially eying at least four parliamentary constituencies – Kanyakumari, Shivaganga, Coimbatore and South Chennai.


The party has got a shot-in-the-arm from popular Tamil novelist RN Joe D’Cruz who has hailed Modi’s Gujarat government as “a visionary regime.”


In South Chennai, a keen contest is in the offing with the AIADMK, DMK and BJP having put up formidable candidates. AIADMK has fielded the Tamil Nadu Assemble Speaker’s son Jayavardhan; BJP its former state unit chief L Ganesan who hails from the Brahmin community which forms a sizeable population in Mylapore assembly segment, and the DMK has fielded its spokesman TKS Elangovan.


Under the seat-sharing agreement, DMDK has been given the lion’s share of 14 out of the 39 seats in the state, followed by BJP and PMK at eight each. The MDMK is contesting seven seats while IJK and KMDK are contesting from one constituency each. However the nomination papers of the BJP candidate from the Nilgiri reserved constituency S Gurumurthy were rejected as were the nomination papers of the PMK candidate from Chidambaram, I Manirathnam. However, the nomination papers of Manirathnam’s wife Sudha, the dummy candidate, were found in order and she was quickly made the official candidate.


In Chidambaram, the pro-dalit outfit and DMK ally, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi is facing an acid test to retain the reserved Lok Sabha seat amid challenge by the ruling AIADMK and PMK. S Ramadoss enjoys vast clout among Vanniyars in this constituency.


One factor that comes to the BJP’s rescue is the expulsion of Alagiri from the DMK. He has considerable influence in the southern part of the state. BJP’s prospects in Kanyakumari constituency can brighten if Alagiri is willing to extend support.


As the State goes to the polls on April 24, the alliance partners are eagerly awaiting the visit of top BJP brass. The Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi arrived with much fanfare on April 13; now LK Advani and party president Rajnath Singh are expected.


In Kanyakumari constituency where BJP is hopeful, the anti-Kudankulam activist SP Udayakumar has entered the fray as an AAP candidate. Udayakumar enjoys considerable influence in the coastline villages among fishermen. The constituency has 4.20% Muslims and interestingly the candidates of AIADMK, DMK, CPI(M) and AAP are all Catholic Christians.


The two-time MP, Vaiko of the DMDK, defeated in 2009 by a margin of 15,764 votes by Congress candidate Manicka Tagore, is hoping to turn the tide in his favour banking on his own popularity and the “Modi wave”. Vaiko, a strong votary of Sri Lankan Tamils, is pitted against the ruling AIADMK’s local leader D Radhakrishnan, Chairman of Sivakasi Panchayat Union. The caste factor is expected to play a key role in the outcome of the poll with Mukkulathors forming nearly one-third of the electorate. Scheduled castes and Nadars make up for the other major communities in the constituency, which has a large labour class, being home to the fireworks and match industries, off-set printing press and textile units.


The Left alliance consisting of CPI and CPI(M) has put up candidates in 18 constituencies. The AAP which hopes to make a debut in Tamil Nadu has fielded candidates in Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli. A total of 845 candidates are in the fray for the 39 Lok Sabha.  


As per initial surveys, the ruling AIADMK has an edge over all other parties followed by the DMK whose prospects look brighter in Central Chennai, Nilgiris, Sriperumbudur. The BJP-led rainbow alliance is hoping to emerge as a force to reckon with in the midst of two giants  – the AIADMK and the DMK – that have hitherto divided the State amongst themselves.

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