That the situation in Tamil Nadu post-Jayalalithaa will not hold on for long, the BJP was well aware. But that it would metamorphose so dramatically and so soon, especially after a reasonable degree of stability had been achieved with O. Panneerselvam heading the government and Sasikala Natarajan taking care of the party, it was not prepared for, or so say leaders here at the Centre.
Precipitated amid elections in ﬁve key states, this is not the best of times for the BJP to expend energies in a State where it has minimal stake so far. To increase its footprint, the BJP is visualising a leadership independent of the two regional satraps — the AIADMK and the DMK.
But for now, the numbers that DMK and AIADMK hold in state Assembly, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha make the two parties central to the BJP plans for floor management in Parliament and also the President and the Vice-President elections scheduled later this year.
Officially, the BJP claims no role in acting Chief Minister Panneerselvam’s revolt, which pushed Tamil Nadu into a political turmoil. Sources say it does not benefit the BJP which wants the AIADMK to stay united.
While the BJP is inclined towards Panneerselvam given his image, sources say all the three key players in the state’s dramatics — DMK leader MK Stalin, Sasikala and Panneerselvam — are in “touch” with BJP leadership here at the Centre.
It is a wait and watch, they say.
There is a degree of reservation against Sasikala becoming the CM given the “baggage” she carries. In those terms, Panneer-selvam is a more favourable option for them, they say. Apparently, like everyone else, the BJP, too, is waiting for the Supreme Court verdict in the disproportionate assets case against her.
Notably, Sasikala was expected to be sworn in on February 7. However, after the Tamil Nadu Governor’s meeting with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, there is a reason to believe that the BJP played a role in Panneerselvam’s actions subsequent to that.
For the moment, the BJP-led Centre appears to be caught between its desire to stop Sasikala and the compulsion to follow the law in word and spirit. It has reportedly asked governor Rao to delay the swearing-in, perhaps in the hope that the Supreme Court verdict could be pronounced soon.
The reaction to Sasikala’s election within the state and its cadres is a clear indication that people see her as a usurper, not a legitimate leader. Even the AIADMK workers are angry that she has captured Jayalalithaa’s legacy without any political or moral legitimacy. The AIADMK cadres believed Sasikala has used her clout over the MLAs, many of whom may have got party tickets because of her since Jayalalithaa was unwell, to insult the mandate. It can be safely presumed that if fresh elections were to be held in TN today, the AIADMK under Sasikala may not return to power. But, elections are almost five years away.
But, Sasikala’s day of reckoning may not be that far away. Even if she gets acquitted by the SC, gets swornin as CM, Sasikala will have to face the electorate within six months to enter the Assembly. Considering the anger on the ground and the resentment among AIADMK cadres, it may not be easy for Sasikala to retain power she has grabbed because of influence in the late CM’s household.
Though its immediate post-Jayalalithaa objective is to prop up the AIADMK government, BJP sees a chance to spread wings in Tamil Nadu after the passing of Amma and the decline of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi.
It will find AIADMK’s support handy in countering the Congress-Trinamool combine in Parliament and in forums like the GST council, but shorn of its mass leader, AIADMK is in a state of flux. On the other hand, the transition in DMK is under way with Karunanidhi’s health limiting his influence.
A change in Tamil Nadu’s political canvas -where power has been held alternately by AIADMK and DMK for years, reducing Congress to a bit player, and disallowing BJP to take off -is the best juncture for BJP to obtain an option beyond its one Lok Sabha seat in 2014, a party member said.
PM Modi, however, is seen to have a connect in the state and the perception that he shared a good equation with Jayalalithaa could help build on popular sentiment, feel party managers. Even as the party wants to move slowly on usurping the leaderless AIADMK’s voter base, the immediate target is to look for some seats for the 2019 Lok Sabha, with its core support areas almost exhausted in 2014. But much will depend on whether AIADMK holds together or is pulled into turbulence around Amma’s trusted aide Sasikala.
BJP is more comfortable with Amma’s balance of Dravidian and nationalist poli tics, rather than DMK’s Dravidian identity approach.
BJP is also trying to tap Tamil leaders from smaller parties like Vaiko or break-away Congress groups and build bridges with popular figures like Rajnikanth. But for now there are no plans to poach from AIADMK. An immediate issue will be the Presidential elections coming up later this year.
With M K Stalin who has his father Karunanidhi’s blessings to take over as the next leader, DMK has less of a leadership crisis compared to AIADMK, say political watchers. Thus, BJP’s attempt is to stall him from filling the vaccum created by Jayalalithaa’s death.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Wednesday blamed the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre for the political chaos going in Tamil Nadu and alleged that the latter is trying to utilise the situation to stamp the presence of the saffron party in the state.
“The Narendra Modi government is playing dirty game. They want to create problem for the political parties and they want to get some advantage as BJP has no hold in Tamil Nadu and they think this an opportunity to be utilized,” state Congress president S Thirunavukkarasar told ANI.
On the similar lines, Congress leader Karti Chidambaram asked for fresh election to be conducted in the state.
“The only solution to the extraordinary political situation in Tamil Nadu is to dissolve the House and call for a general election as the people of Tamil Nadu must have a right immediately elect a party and a leadership of their choice,” he said.
Congress has refrained from commenting on the political situation in Tamil Nadu, but urged the government to ensure that Constitutional mandate is respected and duties discharged as per Constitutional provisions.
“It is for the government of the day and the Prime Minister and Home Minister who have appointed the Governor to ensure that the Constitutional mandate is respected and the duties discharged as per the Constitutional provisions.
“As you know we are in opposition. If we were in government, we would have given a detailed response but now we are not required to,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said.
A bitter fight has erupted within AIADMK between party general secretary VK Sasikala and caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam. Both the Congress and BJP are playing wait and watch game to make their next move.