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Fresh ally trouble hits BJP in south

Chennai, March 17: The BJP is facing a second rebellion by a Tamil Nadu ally just days after quelling the first by actor-politician Vijayakanth.

The PMK on Sunday unilaterally announced candidates for three seats informally allotted to Vijayakanth’s DMDK.

PMK leader S. Ramadoss said his party would not give up its claims on Kallakurichi, Thiruvannamalai and Salem.

The DMDK, however, has already announced Vijayakanth’s brother-in-law Sutheesh as the candidate from Salem and is finalising nominees for the other two seats.

On Friday, before the informal allotments, Vijayakanth had jumped the gun and named five party candidates. But he was forced to backtrack on Saturday after the BJP threatened to dump him.

“Everyone is acting unilaterally after coming to an agreement with us,” a senior BJP leader rued.

“During the talks, the PMK had agreed to part with Salem. The BJP too had been interested in Salem as our state secretary was murdered by extremists there.”

Vijayakanth announced the candidate for Salem only after the BJP agreed to give the seat to his party in the interests of the alliance, which also happens to include Vaiko’s MDMK.

“Now, within a few hours, their president (Ramadoss) announces that the PMK will contest from Salem. This kind of dishonesty and selfishness is hurting the front’s image,” the BJP leader said.

Ramadoss and Vijayakanth are bitter rivals in north Tamil Nadu. If the BJP can’t reconcile them, it may have to sacrifice Ramadoss since Vijayakanth’s party has a wider influence thanks to the support of the most-backward Vanniyars.

“Even when it was in alliance with Jayalalithaa in 2009, the PMK was unable to win any of the nine seats it had contested,” the BJP leader said.

“In the 2011 Assembly elections, it contested 30 seats as part of the DMK front but won just three. There has been an erosion in the PMK’s base, partly because of Vijayakanth’s entry.”

Since he fell in line on Saturday, Vijayakanth has been campaigning vigorously for the NDA, seeking votes to make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister. The BJP cadres too seem to have warmed up to him.

Ramadoss has so far refused to blink. “We are prepared to contest alone if matters come to a head,” a PMK leader said. Dumping Ramadoss will free up eight more seats for the other front partners.

The BJP hopes to clean up the mess before party chief Rajnath Singh arrives later this week to formally announce the seat shares in the presence of the allies.