The BJP is keenly watching the developments within the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), and its two factions, but says that any possibility of the party joining the NDA coalition at the Centre was contingent on a merger of the two factions.
Senior party leaders dealing with Tamil Nadu told The Hindu that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah were clear that a merger of the two factions was a condition for any understanding at the national level.
“The BJP has neither an organisational spread nor a charismatic leader at the helm of affairs in Tamil Nadu. A weakened AIADMK may present a political vacuum but we have a long way to go before we can cash in on that. In the meanwhile, there is an Opposition coalition between the DMK and the Congress that can take advantage. For us, therefore, the AIADMK has to merge its two factions for there to be any possibilities of expansion in the State with an alliance partner,” said a senior party leader in touch with both factions of the AIADMK. An AIADMK sans Jayalalithaa is a possible ally but not in such a scattered form where the DMK could defeat the party in the next elections.
The BJP has received support from both factions of the AIADMK for the presidential and vice-presidential polls. “Prime Minister Modi is clear that the Centre will extend all help to the State government for developmental activities and have a positive engagement with Tamil Nadu,” said the leader.
“Till the merger happens, the question is which AIADMK is allying with us? The O. Panneerselvam faction has a few MPs and MLAs, the Sasikala faction has some, the latter has the baggage of cases of graft against it as well. Therefore whatever political or electoral understanding has to be reached, has to be with a merged entity,” said the source. The question of a political understanding paying off is something that has to be addressed four years hence, said another senior leader, and the BJP may also want other smaller parties to join the front.
Film star Rajinikanth’s plans are also a factor that the BJP is looking at. Whether he joins the BJP or floats his own front or keeps away from politics altogether is to be seen.
The OPS faction however continues to claim that it is the genuine AIADMK and there is no question of merger, just that others can “join” the party.
“Merger has become a dirty word in Tamil Nadu. Anybody willing to accept the leadership of Mr. O. Panneerselvam is welcome to join us. Joining yes, merger no. We have taken a principled stand and we continue to abide by that. So far, to my knowledge neither Prime Minister Modi nor anyone in the BJP has broached this subject,” said Dr. V. Maitreyan, loyal to the OPS faction.
Mr. Amit Shah will be on a three-day tour of Tamil Nadu between August 22-24, and will be visiting Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore. The Coimbatore programme will be a major one, sources said.