In Tamil Nadu’s fickle politics, the resort has taken center stage in recent times, forming the backdrop for backroom manoeuvres and even government formation. And so, the irony was not lost on anyone in the state when BJP president Amit Shah chose a beach resort for discussions with party functionaries and potential allies after he landed in Chennai on Monday.
Shah’s visit to Tamil Nadu has long been in the making and he had twice put off planned trips, citing different reasons. But with time running out ahead of the next year’s general elections, the master election strategist has his task cut out in the party’s plans to conquer what has turned out to be the BJP’s last frontier – south India.
The party, which had fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections along with three regional parties – Vijayakanth’s DMDK, Ramdoss’s PMK and Vaiko’s MDMK – found itself friendless before the 2016 assembly polls.
Shah knows that in Tamil Nadu allies can be aggregators of votes, as in 2014 when the BJP-led front managed to poll about 15 per cent votes and win two out of the 39 Lok Sabha votes, thus denying the AIADMK a clean sweep. The ruling party won 37 seats. Even the DMK, which had unhitched the Congress before the 2014 elections, drew a miserable blank, forcing it to tie up with the Congress for the 2016 assembly elections.
The BJP, which has a measly two per cent vote share in the state on its own, found itself humiliated when it polled fewer votes than NOTA in the RK Nagar bypolls in December 2017.
The RK Nagar bypoll could be a reference point for the BJP, as a young and affable TTV Dhinakaran won comfortably as an independent, overtaking the ruling AIADMK and denying the DMK even its deposit. TTV, who has now formed his own party, the AMMK, has been growing steadily, as demonstrated by his massive public meeting at Coimbatore on Sunday evening.
If the BJP is seriously considering allies to win a few seats it can ill afford to ignore Dhinakaran and his party. Shah’s present choice, though, appears to be the ruling AIADMK, but this dispensation led by the EPS-OPS duo stands discredited for being ineffective and corrupt and lacking in cadre base. That its durability rests on the outcome of the HC verdict on the disqualification of 18 pro-TTV MLAs is another weakness that the ruling party has to overcome in the coming weeks.
Under these circumstances the BJP needs to seriously consider TTV and his party as an alternative, unmindful of the Sasikala family’s dubious past. “Dhinakaran being a smart survivor would even be ready to sacrifice Chinnamma if the BJP could offer him a good deal for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Of course, he would expect the assembly elections to be held simultaneously which would mean toppling the present government, which anyway is short of a working majority. By choosing to sail with the EPS-OPS duo the BJP would only find itself in a sinking boat,” said a former AIADMK legislator.
If TTV refuses to play ball then the BJP’s other option would be Rajnikanth if and when he floats his party. More importantly, the actor should be willing to shake hands with the BJP given the antipathy that has been whipped up against Modi’s government by the fringe groups and Tamil TV channels. So far, the BJP has managed to rope in a small Dalit outfit with a marginal presence in the southern districts and is confident of wooing back the PMK which only needs a minimum of 15 seats and funds to fight the LS elections.
But a gung-ho Amit Shah was confident that the BJP will come up with an impressive show in Tamil Nadu.
Addressing booth coordinators of the state unit, Amit Shah declared, “Those who ridicule BJP today would eat their words after 2019. We will win more seats than ever in Tamil Nadu, riding on the achievements of the Modi government. Tamil Nadu will play a key role in voting the NDA back to power,” he said.