If you replace the tent-grabbing ungulate with the BJP in The Arab and the Camel fable, you will know how the AIADMK is feeling now.
The BJP, inarguably once a small fry in Tamil Nadu politics dominated by the Dravidian movement, is now flexing its muscles, and the first casualty of the grand designs of the party born in the Hindi heartland appears to be one of its last remaining big allies: the AIADMK.
First, Union home minister Amit Shah nettled the Tamil Nadu ally by jumping the gun and appearing to seek from voters a lion’s share of seats for the BJP in next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
Then, the unkindest cut was delivered. In an interview with an English daily on Monday, BJP state president and former IPS officer K. Annamalai slammed both the DMK and the AIADMK for their “corrupt administrations”. Without naming the late Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK’s tallest icon after MGR, the BJP leader referred to her conviction in a disproportionate assets case.
“Many administrations in Tamil Nadu were corrupt. Former chief ministers have been convicted in courts of law. That is why Tamil Nadu has become one of the most corrupt states. I would say it is number one in corruption,” Annamalai was quoted as saying in the interview, a day after Shah had praised him at a rally in Vellore for having “taken the BJP to every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu”.
The AIADMK on Tuesday lashed out at the ally for “belittling” Jayalalithaa, condemning Annamalai’s “immature remarks”. Being the senior partner, the AIADMK suggested it would take the call on seat-sharing.
The AIADMK went to the extent of passing a resolution that said the state BJP chief’s remarks had been made “with a deliberate intent to defame Amma and malign her reputation with observations totally unacceptable in public life”.
The AIADMK’s outburst comes at a time the BJP has been trying to reach out to its allies in the aftermath of the electoral drubbing in Karnataka.
Earlier, Shah had ruffled feathers in the AIADMK by exhorting the people of Tamil Nadu on Sunday to ensure the NDA’s victory in at least 25 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the 2024 elections as an act of “thanksgiving” for installing the sengol, a Chola-style sceptre, in the new Parliament. Shah had invoked Prime Minister Narendra Modi while issuing the appeal.
Senior AIADMK functionary and former minister Semmalai had on Sunday said his party would decide the seat-sharing pact as the leader of the alliance in Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK has 66 MLAs and the BJP four.
Against this backdrop, Annamalai’s oblique criticism of Jayalalithaa has left the AIADMK fuming. At a meeting of the district secretaries in Chennai, chaired by AIADMK general secretary and former chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, the party passed the three-page resolution.
The comments have caused much anguish among Jayalalithaa’s followers, party cadres and the general public, the resolution said.
The party recalled how Jayalalithaa had helped Atal Bihari Vajpayee become Prime Minister in 1998. The AIADMK-BJP combine had won 28 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
The AIADMK pointed to the respect shown by national leaders, including Modi, to Jayalalithaa and claimed that without its support, the BJP would not have won the four Assembly seats it did in 2021.
“The irresponsible and immature remarks by Annamalai against such a mass, popular leader known widely pan-India... with ulterior political motives is strongly condemned,” the AIADMK resolution said.
Senior party functionary and former AIADMK minister D. Jayakumar expressed dismay that Annamalai had not shown any concern for the “coalition dharma” and had “crossed all limits” in belittling his party. Annamalai’s approach could force the AIADMK to rethink its alliance with the BJP, Jayakumar said.
The BJP dug in its heels, with senior state leader Karu Nagarajan dismissing the AIADMK’s resolution and its leaders’ remarks as not worthy of consideration, and accusing them of “being jealous of Annamalai’s growing popularity in Tamil Nadu”.
The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday conducted raids on the office and properties linked to DMK minister Senthilbalaji in Chennai and his native town of Karur in connection with a money-laundering case.
Family members and close friends of Senthilbalaji, the electricity and excise minister, have already been under the income-tax department’s scanner.
The search at the minister’s office at the secretariat in Chennai sent shock waves through political circles, coming two days after Union home minister Shah’s visit to the state and against the backdrop of DMK president and chief minister M.K. Stalin asking Shah what special schemes the BJP had implemented for Tamil Nadu in the past nine years.
Stalin said in a statement on Tuesday: “We do not know what necessity was there for the searches to be made at the minister’s office in the state secretariat. All these only show that central investigative agencies are functioning with a political motive.”
Stalin tweeted: “The raid conducted by the ED at the secretariat office of Minister Senthilbalaji is a direct attack on the federal principles; the backdoor tactics of the BJP against its political opponents will not yield them the desired results. The BJP will learn it the hard way soon.
“The silence of the people who are watching the BJP’s cheap acts of vindictive politics should not be underestimated; it is nothing but the calm before the storm of 2024 that will sweep the BJP away.”
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: “I condemn the political vendetta by BJP against DMK... today. Misuse of central agencies continues. ED raids in Tamil Nadu at office of Minister for Prohibition and Excise at the state secretariat and his official residence are unacceptable. Desperate acts by BJP.”
Senior DMK functionaries who had gone to Senthilbalaji’s residence in Chennai were not allowed to enter. This is the second time in recent years that a central investigative agency has entered the Tamil Nadu secretariat, the seat of the state government, to carry out searches, the previous occasion being when the office of then chief secretary T. Rama Mohana Rao was raided by income-tax sleuths during the AIADMK regime in December 2016.