The war of words between AIADMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and BJP’s prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi may impact national politics, but the more immediate effect will be on Tamil Nadu if the two don’t make up.
Modi met superstar Rajinikant in Chennai, which was not liked by Jayalalithaa. She also disapproved of Modi forging an alliance with actor-politician Vijayakanth, who is leader of opposition in Tamil Nadu. And she has been unable to accept that Modi is getting huge crowds at every rally in the zstate.
Modi has become a household name in Tamil Nadu. People from even remote villages in the state are turning up to listen to Modi’s oratory, which is somewhat akin to Karunanidhi and C.N. Annadurai’s in Tamil. This is the result of eight massive rallies Modi addressed in major centres of the state.
Blessed by Rajinikanth, the BJP is leading a formidable rainbow alliance with DMDK, PMK, MDMK and IPK. This new alliance and its combined vote share is causing anxiety to Jayalalithaa ahead of the state assembly elections due in March 2016.
Until now, AIADMK supremo was not attacking Modi. But, after his meeting with Rajinikant, she realised that if she did not hit back, situation will worsen for her in the state.
She is worried over Modi’s style of campaigning as he has wooed Tamil Nadu voters with select wording. At a meeting in Nagercoil, where Congress president Sonia Gandhi held a rally a day earlier, Modi said the Tamil Nadu government has failed to protect the interests of fishermen. “Madam blames Amma, Amma blames Madam,” he said in a reference to Sonia Gandhi and Jayalalithaa.
Modi wants to emphasise that the BJP should have future interests in Tamil Nadu. That is why he has concentrated on this southern state that has been the bastion of Dravidian politics for several decades. Modi achieved what Rajiv Gandhi failed to do in 1989 – to get a cadre and organisational base for the BJP in Tamil Nadu.
Modi spoke to five important Tamil news TV Channels, and the interviews were telecast live, just a day before his visit. That was a major irritant to Jayalalithaa. Modi has become the talking point among the 60 million Tamils and others in the state. Modi understood the realpolitik of Tamil Nadu. This is for first time that the Congress is not riding on the shoulders of any Dravidian party, and Modi has captured that space.
Modi has changed the image of the BJP – from a brahminical party to a OBC-Dalit alliance, and that has worried not only Jayalalithaa, but also the DMK and the Congress as well.
The DMK cadre is divided with friction within the Karunanidhi family. A majority of the DMK workers are, of course, with M.K. Stalin, Karunanidhi’s son whom he has annointed as his successor. But then, Stalin’s estranged brother M.K. Alagiri also has the capacity to attract 30 to 40 percent of the party cadre. A section of DMK leaders feels that the threat in the future will be from Narendra Modi and not from Jayalalithaa, and hopes to settle scores with her in March 2016.
The BJP-led alliance may not have too many seats out of 39 in Tamil Nadu. But this will ensure the emergence of a new force in state politics. If the Congress collapses faster than expected, the BJP-led third front will swallow half of the DMK too in the state. Voters will gravitate towards Modi and Alagiri will lend a helping hand to take his long due political revenge. Stalin, the heir apparent to the DMK supremo, may find his dream short-lived.
Over the past three decades, the Dravidian parties have apparently started to lose steam. And this will certainly affect formation of the next government at the centre.
Irrespective of the BJP-led five-party alliance, the AIADMK is sure to get around 25-28 Lok Sabha seats out of the total 39, given the present political situation in the state.
One should not forget that Jayalalithaa made Atal Bihari Vajpayee sweat out by not writing the letter of support to the President of India in 1998. Will a similar situation emerge post May 16 if Modi does not make up with Jayalalithaa by then?
(R. Rajagopalan, a senior journalist, has reported Tamil Nadu politics for four decades. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)