March 22, 2014

THE HALF RAINBOW COALITION


CAN THE BJP AND ITS ALLIES POSE A FORMIDABLE CHALLENGE IN TN



The saffron outfit seems to be in an envious position in Tamil Nadu. No, it is not because there is some NaMo wave in the Tamil country. Nor is it that the BJP is all set to win a large chunk of the 39 seats in the southern state. In my opinion, one of the biggest highlights for the party here is that both of the two big Dravidian parties have refrained from attacking it. While Amma, who many consider to be a 'natural ally' of the BJP for her pro-Brahmin stance, may have decided to go solo in the upcoming polls, she has never attacked Modi in her rallies. The DMK which has been under fire for the alleged role of its top leaders in the multi-crore 2G scam too has gone soft on its former ally in the NDA. Having walked out of the UPA over the Lankan Tamil issue, the party supremo Karunanidhi had referred to the Gujarat CM as a 'close friend'. Even his estranged son Alagiri has backed Modi for the top post. On the other hand, the INC has failed to tie up with any party in Tamil Nadu and many of its top guns, including Finance Minister Chidambaram have refused to contest the polls. Apart from being wooed by both the AIADMK and the DMK, the saffron party has stitched together a rainbow alliance down south, joining hands with several smaller Dravidian outfits. There is little doubt that the BJP, which may lead the next government at the Centre is in the driver's seat. By forming such a formidable coalition in a state where it has nominal presence, the party has showcased its clout in the political sphere just on the eve of the 2014 General Elections.

The biggest catch for the BJP in the Tamil country has been 'Captain' Vijaykant. The Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazagham (DMDK) was also being wooed by the DMK and the Congress. In fact, when Alagiri had lashed out at the DMDK chief, the DMK patriarch had publicly rapped his son. Having won 10 percent of the votes in the state in the 2009 General Elections and finishing as the second largest party in the last state legislative polls, he will lead the NDA in the 2014, putting up candidates in 14 constituencies. The second largest partner in the grand coalition is Ramadoss' Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) which has been allocated eight seats. Popular in the northern and north-western parts of the state, especially amongst the Vaniyars, it took considerable effort on part of the BJP to get the two rivals - the DMDK and the PMK together. Even now it seems that the differences between the two parties who have common political interests, have not yet disappeared completely. Perhaps, the most vocal supporter of the candidature of the Gujarat CM in Tamil Nadu has been the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) chief Vaiyapuri Gopalaswamy, more popularly known as Vaiko. The pro-LTTE leader will field candidates in seven parliamentary constituencies. The Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK) which has some influence in the Kongu region and the Indiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK) has been allocated one seat each. Meanwhile, the BJP will nominate candidates in eight seats.

Political Party
Seats Won
Vote Share
1
Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazagham (DMDK)
-
10.3
2
Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK)
-
6.4
3
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK)
-
3.7
4
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
-
2.3
National Democratic Alliance (NDA)
-
22.3

The above chart shows the seats won and the vote share of the major constituents of the NDA in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

Now let us consider the chances of the NDA in the 2014 General Elections. If we add up the vote share of the parties that form a part of the alliance today, we see that it is an impressive 22.3 per cent. Meanwhile, the DMK and the AIADMK, who are the two big parties here won 25.1 and 22.9 % of the votes in 2009. As such, I do expect the NDA to win up to 5 seats here. However, the there is much more to this coalition, at least from the BJP's point of view than just the seats. In the run up to the polls, all big leaders here, the likes of Amma, Karuna, Stalin, Vaiko and Alagiri have expressed their willingness to work with the saffronists. In a state where rivals do not see eye to eye and where differences are not restricted to politics, this is no mean feat. As such, if the BJP can finish as the largest party after the 2014 polls, it can join hands with either the AIADMK or the DMK, even if the NDA fails to perform well. Secondly, by joining hands with several smaller players, the party has proved that even under Modi it is capable of attracting allies, an art it perfected under former PM Vajpayee. In fact, getting together the DMDK and the PMK was a masterstroke. Lastly, by putting together such a formidable front, the saffron outfit has managed to isolate the Congress. The lack of friends has taken its toll. Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Shipping Minister G K Vasan have refused to contest the polls. While the party and its allies may not win many seats, it has managed to make several points.