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AIADMK merger may help BJP ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls

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The national party is believed to have played a role in bringing the two rival factions together in order to prevent defections

The twists and turns in the Tamil Nadu politics continue with the ruling AIADMK on Monday saw a merger of the two rival factions. The move assumes significance for the state as well as national politics.

Ever since former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation in September 2016, Tamil Nadu’s politics has been tumultuous, with the state being governed by as many as three CMs in a span of one year.

Talks leading to the merger between the rival groups had been hectic, even though unpredictable and turbulent. Among the issues deliberated upon were that while former CM O. Panneerselvam or OPS has the goodwill within the party, he does not carry enough dynamism, and current CM E. Palaniswami or EPS—who has the numbers in the party—is not quite the glue that can keep his flocks together.

Jailed party chief V.K. Sasikala and and her nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran, the other players in this political potboiler, have largely been seen as spoilers. After the merger, OPS will be sworn in as deputy CM.

What set the alarm bells ringing in the party is the fact that the AIADMK has a wafer-thin majority and hence, any defection can impact its status in the House. AIADMK has 134 legislators in the assembly, with the halfway mark being 117. Of this, the EPS faction has 117 MLAs, the OPS camp has 11 while Dinakaran claims to have the support of around 20 legislators.

Then, there are moves by superstars like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, who are sensing the chance to be the new M. G. Ramachandrans of the state.

Meanwhile, the main opposition DMK’s aggression is evident in the run-up to the 2021 assembly polls. How long the present government lasts remains to be seen as DMK’s numbers plus Dinakaran’s MLAs can prove lethal for EPS.

Even the BJP that has nothing in the state is eying to make inroads in Tamil Nadu. The party is believed to have played the role of a catalyst in the AIADMK’s merger. The joke is that the Prime Minister meets OPS and EPS more than his own party functionaries. Veteran leader M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is now the Vice-President of the country, was the PM’s point-person.

It has become evident that BJP is trying to expand its footprints in Tamil Nadu with the help of AIADMK.

Interestingly, Tamil Nadu is a state where no national party has been in power for the past 50 years, the longest for any state. And the BJP, whose ruthless ambition at this point is to be in power across the country, is waiting in the wings.

AIADMK is the third largest party in the Lok Sabha with just a few seats behind the Congress, at 37 MPs, and hence, its importance in the national politics cannot be ruled out. If AIADMK joins the NDA, it will be the largest ally to the BJP and will have to be accommodated with meaty portfolios in the impending reshuffle.

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