When it comes to working relationships, the one between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam could prove to be a model for a study of India’s post-1990 politics. As the BJP leader and Union minister of law, Ravi Shankar Prasad, admitted recently, there is a “convergence of interest” on certain issues between the two parties. An acknowledgement of that may have been the reason behind the BJP’s denial of the chair of the deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha to the Congress, with which it, obviously, shares no common interest. The post went to the AIADMK despite the fact that it had lesser number of seats in the House than the Congress. The AIADMK, on its part, has provided valuable support to the ruling party in Parliament by helping it to corner the Congress together with other Opposition parties. This bit of mutual understanding, however, does not impinge upon the political reality in Tamil Nadu, where the BJP is in the race for the role of the main Opposition party. Having launched its operation in alliance with six regional outfits during the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has gradually warmed up to the role. Its growing confidence is evident from its challenge to the AIADMK for the forthcoming local body bypolls despite the boycott of the polls by a crucial ally. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, by the way, has decided to boycott the polls on the plea that it is not sufficiently prepared for the contest. Having rapidly increased its vote share in the state with the help of the support base of its allies, the BJP is using the bypolls to prepare for a bigger contest during the assembly polls.
There is no doubt that the BJP’s status as head of the National Democratic Alliance government, its control over the Central funds, and the stature of its leader, Narendra Modi, have increased its attraction among the regional players, just as things had once been with the Congress. But the saffron party runs the risk of upsetting the working relationship at the Centre if it becomes too dogged in its drive in Tamil Nadu to wrest the anti-government vote. The AIADMK chief has been ruthless in discouraging signs of her party’s proximity to the BJP. She might take the BJP’s regional challenge seriously.