AIADMK party cadre celebrating at the party headquarters after the party decided to withdraw from electoral alliance with the BJP in Chennai | Photo Credit: RAGU R

The AIADMK’s decision is a major setback for the saffron party in Tamil Nadu and could have far-reaching implications for the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

In a blow to Modi’s national ambitions, AIADMK breaks up with BJP

Upset over Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president K. Annamalai’s derogatory comments about the leaders of the AIADMK, dead and living, and getting no relief barring a sympathetic ear from the BJP top brass in New Delhi, the AIADMK has called off its alliance with the BJP.

While this might be viewed innocuous as Tamil Nadu’s Assembly election is due only in 2026, the fact that the BJP media management team seeks to downplay this break-up as the five crucial States prepare for the Assembly elections later this year makes it seem that the BJP has viewed this break-up quite seriously.

In an unrelated move, a case against All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami came up for hearing at the Supreme Court on September 25.

A top decision-making body of the AIADMK comprising district secretaries, MLAs, and MPs, met on September 25 and announced that the alliance with the BJP has ended. Annamalai had made several false claims about former Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai. A resolution passed at the meeting did not mention Annamalai by name but generalised the issue as “comments made by BJP’s Tamil Nadu leadership”. On his part, Annamalai said that the “Central leadership” would respond to the AIADMK’s decision—a comment that could be interpreted in several ways.

AIADMK General Secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami seen before the meeting that decided to end the electoral alliance with BJP. | Photo Credit: RAGU R

A statement issued after the AIADMK meeting noted that “the State leadership of the BJP, for over the past year has been systematically, purposely and with ulterior motives, speaking defamatorily against the AIADMK, (former Chief Ministers) C.N. Annadurai and Jayalalithaa as well as criticising our policies and programmes”. It said that the BJP had “belittled” the massive show of strength organised by the AIADMK in Madurai on August 20, as well as spoken about former Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami in a derogatory manner.

One top AIADMK leader, K.P. Munusamy, told presspersons that this decision was not taken lightly; it was “not just for today, but forever… We will have no alliance with the BJP”. All the cadre who had gathered at the AIADMK headquarters on V.P. Raman Road hailed the decision, and welcomed the AIADMK throwing the BJP out of the alliance. Second-line leaders too were heard passing belligerent comments against the BJP in Tamil Nadu, though no one in the AIADMK spoke against the central leadership of the BJP. Similar scenes were reported from across the State, according to a few AIADMK leaders who spoke to Frontline.

A few days ago, following Annamalai’s remarks, senior AIADMK leaders D. Jayakumar and C.V. Shanmugam, were fielded, and both of them, in separate press briefings, had stridently attacked the State leadership of the BJP, demanding an apology from Annamalai. This opened the floodgates of verbal attacks against Annamalai and all levels of the BJP, prompting the AIADMK leadership to issue a release asking the second-line leaders not to speak about any question on the alliance.

After the exchanges between the BJP State leadership and the AIADMK, Edappadi K. Palaniswami met Home Minister Amit Shah, as well as BJP national president J.P. Nadda. Usually, Palaniswami meets the press soon after such a meeting. This time, though, he did not meet the press. Instead, a few days later, he sent a team of his close advisors in the party, including former Ministers Thangamani and Velumani, who have significant access in New Delhi, to meet Shah. This time around, the Home Minister declined to meet them, and the team had to be satisfied with meeting Nadda.

Reacting to the AIADMK decision, BJP leader V.P. Duraisamy told a news television channel that the AIADMK leaders were talking about some leaders. “They are not talking anything about ideological differences,” he pointed out. TNCC president K.S. Alagiri said that he doubted how far the AIADMK could stay away from the BJP. “BJP is an evil force…Even today, there is no ideological difference between the AIADMK or the BJP. What happens if this individual issue is sorted out?”

Many leaders who did not want to be quoted asked what happens if Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Amit Shah speak to the AIADMK leadership and assure them that this issue could be sorted out. In any case, as of now, the AIADMK decision throws open the political scene in Tamil Nadu ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.