EXPLAINED: What has driven AIADMK-BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu to brink of collapse? | The Financial Express

EXPLAINED: What has driven AIADMK-BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu to brink of collapse?

The war of words between BJP and AIADMK leaders over the exit of some office-bearers of the saffron party’s state unit is unprecedented in more ways than one.

EXPLAINED: What has driven AIADMK-BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu to brink of collapse?
BJP state unit president K Annamalai (L); E Palaniswami (R)

The Bharatiya Janata Party looks precariously close to losing its foothold in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, with its alliance partner All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) turning the heat on its smaller partner in the state. While ties between the two alliance partners have remained frosty since the DMK led by MK Stalin displaced a rudderless AIADMK from power, the hostility was neither made public nor as aggravated as it is now.

Developments over the past few days indicate that the cracks in ties between the BJP and the AIADMK have widened beyond repair. As many as 13 BJP functionaries, including an office-bearer from its IT wing, quit the party and later joined the AIADMK. The defections followed the exit of some other party functionaries who went on to join the AIADMK.

The exodus of some party functionaries from a state unit would ordinarily leave the BJP unfazed. However, the situation unfolding in Tamil Nadu is quite the opposite. The resignations have sparked an unprecedented war of words between the two alliance partners, with the BJP accusing the AIADMK led by E Palaniswami, or EPS, of “poaching”.

Activists of the BJP’s youth wing also burnt pictures of EPS in Thoothukudi to protest against the “poaching” of their leaders by the AIADMK, drawing widespread condemnation from the Dravidian party.

Alliance with BJP a burden: AIADMK

While the AIADMK has often accused the BJP of exerting undue influence over its senior partner in the state, the direct involvement of EPS in leading the AIADMK charge against the BJP has rattled the state unit of the saffron party. EPS virtually rolled out a red-carpet for the leaders who quit the BJP and inducted them into the AIADMK in his presence.

EPS recently emerged as the sole principal leader of the AIADMK following the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss his party rival O Panneerselvam’s petition and uphold a Madras High Court order that allowed the former to continue as the party’s interim general secretary. With the reins of the party firmly in his control, EPS has now embarked on a mission to exert the supremacy of the AIADMK over its smaller ally.

Rumblings against the BJP, which had so far remained confined to closed doors meetings within the party, have also come out in the open. “It is high time for us to make it clear that having the BJP in our alliance is a burden,” The Indian Express quoted a senior AIADMK leader seen close to EPS as saying. While the leader maintained that the AIADMK has handled the matter sensitively since the BJP is still an alliance partner, he was quick to add that the party stands to gain more on its own than it does having BJP on its side. “Why should we be carrying unconditionally such a baggage?” he added.

AIADMK-BJP fallout: New low for Tamil Nadu politics

The BJP, led by its state unit president K Annamalai, has particularly come under heavy fire from the leaders who switched sides to join the AIADMK. Annamalai has been accused of “autocratic behaviour” and treating the party like a business. Nirmal Kumar, the former head of the IT wing of the BJP, wrote a scathing letter to his colleagues and accused the BJP president of “selling the state party headquarters brick by brick”. He also accused Annamalai of secretly indulging in talks with a DMK minister with whom the party is still involved in a legal battle.

Annamalai, on his part, dismissed the allegations and called out the AIADMK for “poaching” its leaders and wondered why the party was indulging in such tactics now. Responding to a query raised by mediapersons in Coimbatore, Annamalai said that the issue of some second or third-rung leaders leaving the party has taken a bigger dimension, as other parties were keenly watching the developments in BJP. “There are possibilities of some big leaders leaving BJP and big leaders coming to the party after three months,” he said.

Meanwhile, the protests and the war of words between both factions of the Opposition alliance mark a new low for Tamil Nadu politics. While leaders switching loyalties is not new to the state, leaders have so far refrained from being openly critical of their previous parties and their leaders. The recent induction of Senthil Balaji into the DMK and Khushbu Sundar are a few relevant examples when the leaders did not have to target their former parties to get into the good books of the party where they were headed.

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First published on: 09-03-2023 at 14:37 IST
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