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BJP threat tames Vijayakanth

Chennai, March 15: A BJP threat to dump him has forced ally Vijayakanth to fall in line after having unilaterally announced five DMDK candidates on Friday and begun campaigning for two of them.

The National Democratic Alliance front had tentatively fixed seat shares but not their identities, and the BJP, PMK and the DMDK had begun jockeying for certain seats. Vijayakanth had hoped to force the BJP’s hand by starting his campaign for his candidates.

He had focused his Friday speech on attacking the Jayalalithaa government, without once mentioning the NDA or Narendra Modi.

The Tamil Nadu BJP, after consulting its central leadership, informed him that the front was prepared to dump him. It reminded him that he had been told that Rajnath Singh would announce the seat allocations in Delhi.

“P. Muralidhar Rao (the BJP leader in charge of state affairs) called Vijayakanth’s brother-in-law Sutheesh and asked him to name candidates for all the 39 seats in the state as the BJP was ready to snap its ties. Sutheesh promised that the mistake would be rectified on Saturday,” a senior BJP official said.

On Saturday, a chastened Vijayakanth told a campaign meeting at Arcot town, 160km from here, to work for the success of whichever NDA candidate the BJP announced for the seat.

“I cannot announce the name now but whoever is the NDA candidate from Arakonam, please work for his victory,” Vijayakanth said.

The DMDK had been allotted a seat share of 14; the BJP and the PMK eight each; and Vaiko’s MDMK seven. Two minor parties were to get one seat each.

However, a tug-of-war began over some seats, such as Krishnagiri (BJP vs PMK); Tiruchy and Tiruppur (BJP vs DMDK); and three north Tamil Nadu seats (PMK vs DMDK). At a time the state BJP leadership was sorting out the differences, Vijayakanth’s move was seen as a setback for the alliance.

But the BJP’s shock treatment worked. Vijayakanth devoted considerable time to Modi in Arcot.

BJP leaders today claimed to have ironed out the differences with some give and take among the three bigger partners.

“Everything has been sorted out and we are happy that Vijayakanth is leading the NDA campaign. Soon, we shall assemble all the leaders at a meeting to be addressed by Modi,” senior BJP leader L. Ganesan said.

The state BJP is confident that the combined vote share of its rainbow alliance and the Modi factor would make it the main challenger to the ruling AIADMK, pushing the DMK to third spot.