AFTER Jayalalitha took over the party, the AIADMK has split five times. Why not a sixth time?" a senior BJP leader in Delhi had remarked when she refused to forward her letter of support to the president in March. Party MPs promptly relayed this quip to Poes Garden. And ever since, the AIADMK leadership has viewed every move of the BJP with suspicion, especially as it has succeeded in isolating her from state allies like Vazhapadi Ramamurthy and the PMK.
Jayalalitha's partymen are quick to point out that much of her unreasonable behaviour stems from the fact that the BJP has wronged her. They say Jayalalitha never made things difficult for the minority Narasimha Rao government. "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." According to AIADMK sources, the BJP always viewed its ally as a happy hunting ground from which it could buy off MPs. The first real attempt to break the AIADMK was made within a week of the BJP assuming power. "An emissary from the PMO met the Ramanathapuram MP V. Satyamurthy and quizzed him about various splits in the AIADMK, starting from the 1987 split, when MLAs chose to back MGR's widow V.N. Janaki and cadres rallied behind Jayalalitha. Sensing the gameplan of the BJP man, our MP cut short the dialogue," says an AIADMK MP.
Every meeting of BJP leaders with AIADMK MPs, in which feelers were sent, have come to the notice of Jayalalitha. This, it is learnt, only added to her ire and made the AIADMK leader draw her band of 18 MPs closer. Without violating the anti-defection laws the only way left for the BJP to break the AIADMK parliamentary party was by roping in six MPs of the 18 elected. But Jayalalitha preempted the move by creating tightknit caste-based groups among the MPs—and dealing with each group separately. Thus, the BJP managers, without quite understanding the caste dynamics, approached the wrong people, say AIADMK MPs. The first few attempts failed. The state BJP unit then suggested that the national leadership could first target the five Dalit MPs. Acting on this, MPs Venugopal, Saroja, Rajarathnam, Murugesan and Thiagarajan were approached in June but it came to nought.
The BJP also made a futile attempt to use the two ousted Union ministers, S. Muthiah and R.K. Kumar. Once the attempts to woo MPs failed, it tried to rope in rebel AIADMK leader S. Thirunavukkarasu to help out. But Thirunavukkarasu, who is close to TMC chief G.K. Moopanar as well as the Congress, wasn't interested.
Jayalalitha, according to party MPs, always suspected Pramod Mahajan's hand in all these attempts to split the party. And hence the decision to target the senior BJP leader.