New Delhi, Feb. 7: Narendra Modi is going to Chennai tomorrow but the Tamil Nadu BJP is preoccupied less with marshalling the numbers on the ground than with securing the numbers on the dais.
In short, with getting its alliances in place.
Party sources in the southern state said their leaders had spent much time and energy trying to persuade their lone ally, Vaiko’s MDMK, to be at Modi’s side at the rally.
It seems Vaiko was “initially enthusiastic” but later felt “slighted” at the “inordinate” importance the BJP was giving to a prospective ally, actor Vijayakanth’s DMDK.
Vaiko’s party was part of the National Democratic Alliance when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister but has since then been out in the cold in Tamil Nadu as well as Delhi.
The BJP had also hoped to draft in the PMK of S. Ramadoss who, too, had once been a National Democratic Alliance partner. But the negotiations hit a wall with Ramadoss and his son, former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss, demanding “too large” a seat share.
Still, efforts are on to get Anbumani to Modi’s rally. State BJP chief Pon Radhakrishnan insisted that Vaiko too would be there and cited how “the MDMK’s flags have lined the roads leading to the venue”.
Vijayakanth’s party has proved the “trickiest customer”, state BJP leaders admitted.
“His wife Premlatha is the principal interlocutor because she is the party’s political brain. She is not revealing her hand,” a state BJP official said.
“Last week, her media statements gave the impression that she was warming up to the BJP. But a few days later, she gave out a contrary signal and indicated she could go with the DMK and the Congress.”
The state’s main parties, M. Karunanidhi’s DMK and Jayalalithaa’s ruling AIADMK, polled 22.29 per cent and 38.4 per cent of the votes, respectively, in the 2011 Assembly elections. Neither has reached out to the BJP although Jayalalithaa personally bonds well with Modi.
However, Jayalalithaa has recently been involved with the Left’s efforts to stitch together a platform of non-BJP, non-Congress parties.
In Tamil Nadu, the BJP is an insignificant player and needs allies. Its vote share has stagnated at a little over two per cent in recent Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Even the parties it is wooing are hardly a force by themselves.
Ramadoss’s party polled 5.23 per cent of the votes in 2011 while Vaiko’s, which boycotted the Assembly polls, secured 3.66 per cent in the 2009 general election.
Vijayakanth’s party made a spectacular debut in 2011, winning more seats (29) than the DMK (23), but its vote share was only 7.88 per cent.
The BJP’s Tamil Nadu strategy hinges on two hopes: one, Modi’s appeal will bring in more votes than ever before; and two, the party will gain a slice of the DMK’s votes.
Karunanidhi’s younger son Stalin, who will be leading the DMK into the polls, is “less interested” in the general election while being “fixated on becoming the next chief minister”, the BJP believes.
Therefore, in places where the DMK is weak, its supporters will transfer their votes to the BJP coalition to contain Jayalalithaa — so hopes the BJP.