Chennai: There is a clear divide between the senior party leadership of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and its party workers ahead of the local body elections in Tamil Nadu, with both singing different tunes on the alliance with the BJP.
The Supreme Court has directed the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission (TNSEC) to conduct rural local body polls in nine new districts before 15 September. Besides this, urban local body elections will also be held before the end of the year, after a gap of 10 years.
With the election season approaching, the AIADMK is officially standing by the alliance.
“AIADMK, BJP alliance is intact and it will be a joint effort in the ensuing rural body polls and we expect a good win in all the constituencies,” senior AIADMK leader and party spokesperson R. Vatihalingam told the media earlier this month.
But many in the party don’t echo the sentiment and believe that continuing to stick with the BJP will only prove counterproductive to the AIADMK, due to the saffron party’s “outsider image”, “Hindutva narrative”, and lack of support from minority communities.
ThePrint spoke to several leaders in the party who said the AIADMK should learn from the results of the state polls and not ally with the BJP in the upcoming rural and urban local body elections. In the recently-concluded state elections, the AIADMK lost to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), winning only 66 seats as compared to the DMK’s 133, in the 234-member assembly.
“Not only me, but everyone is insisting that we come out of the clutches of this alliance and fight without the BJP,” said a senior member of the party who was also in the AIADMK steering committee for the state polls.
The leader said that, this state election, for the first time, people from the minority communities did not vote for the AIADMK.
“There are also indications that the BJP is cosying up to the DMK as they participated in the centenary celebrations (of the state legislature), which we did not take part in. L. Murugan (former Tamil Nadu BJP chief) even said that the DMK was not the enemy and only the Opposition party,” the leader added.
‘BJP alliance will drag us down’
A common theme among the dissenting leaders is that the BJP only pulls the AIADMK down.
A second senior party leader who served as minister in the previous government told ThePrint that nobody in the AIADMK, whether leaders or rank cadres, wants to ally with the BJP.
“We are putting pressure on the party leadership, that is OPS and EPS, but you will have to ask them why we are still allying with the BJP,” the former minister said. “I don’t know why we are still in an alliance with them.”
Many of the leaders not in favour of the alliance pointed to the results of the state elections earlier this year.
“If the BJP was not an alliance partner, then we would have gotten a two-third majority in the elections,” senior AIADMK leader C. Ponnaiyan told ThePrint.
A party veteran (in the AIADMK for over 50 years) said the BJP is viewed in a negative light in the state as it is perceived to be anti-Tamil, and one that only talks of religion. “’Hindutva can never work in Tamil Nadu,” the veteran said.
He added that allying with the BJP was a mistake as the AIADMK lost many of the Christian and Muslim votes in the assembly elections.
Another party member explained that, from his experience in his constituency (which he lost in the state polls), in both the rural and urban areas, people did not support the BJP.
“We have an advantage in the local body elections as the AIADMK has done whatever it had promised and the DMK still has not followed up on many of its manifesto promises,” he said. “The public also feels that they have been given false promises. Therefore we have an advantage there. However an alliance with the BJP will work against us and drag us down.”
Tamil Nadu BJP spokesperson Narayanan Thirupathy also said it was too soon to decide whether the alliance would continue for the local body polls and that the decision will only be taken once the elections are announced.
On AIADMK leaders unwilling to continue with the alliance, Thirupathy said the decision will be taken by the appropriate forum in the AIADMK. “This sentiment exists in every alliance. It is not just for the BJP or AIADMK,” he said.
‘BJP like our godfather’ — a few exceptions
While many AIADMK leaders are against an alliance with the BJP, there are a few exceptions as well.
Nirmala Periyasamy, AIADMK spokesperson, said the party managed a smooth rule after Jayalalithaa’s death due to the support of the BJP, and is hence backing the alliance.
She conceded that the alliance was a contributing factor to the party’s defeat but also said that anti-incumbency played a role as well. “The BJP is like our godfather,” she added.
Rabi Bernard, a senior party leader, was quick to point out that the local body elections were contested candidate-to-candidate and were more focussed on micro-issues. Therefore, the results of the state elections would not reflect in the outcome of the upcoming local body polls, Bernard said.
Another leader said there was no reason not to ally with the BJP. “The BJP is not the Taliban. There is no reason not to ally with them,” the leader said.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)