A week has passed since the AIADMK severed ties with the BJP and announced its exit from the NDA. The BJP’s central leadership, which did not expect the AIADMK to break away, is yet to comment on the breakup.
However, the saffron party seems to be working on a new strategy to handle the AIADMK and its leaders in Tamil Nadu. The plan involves either getting the AIADMK back into the alliance or ensuring that the party loses its strength.
On Tuesday, four of the nine AIADMK MLAs from Coimbatore and Pollachi districts met Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
MLAs T.K. Amulkandasami, Varadharaja, A.K. Selvaraj and Pollachi Jeyaraman called on Sitharaman. Sources in the AIADMK told The Week that the meeting was just a courtesy call and all four MLAs had already informed their leader Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) about the meeting.
“They met her because of the Union government’s proposal for the defence corridor. It was to request her for budget allocation for their constituencies,” a senior AIADMK office bearer in Salem told The Week. However, after the meeting, MLA Jeyaraman said the conversation was regarding the welfare of coconut farmers in Coimbatore.
The BJP, which was not prepared for the AIADMK’s exit, sources say, is working on several strategies for Tamil Nadu as the outcome in the southern states is crucial for the Lok Sabha polls. The central leadership of the BJP, which is believed to have taken a detailed report from Sitharaman, looks to either restore the alliance or break up the Dravidian party, like how it went about with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
The AIADMK is unlikely to agree to a patch-up. A volte-face would dent the image of the party, which wants to establish that it is not subservient to the national party, and its leadership.
BJP MLAs, particularly Nainar Nagendran and Vanathi Srinivasan, sources say, have been working on strategies for a patch-up with the AIADMK as it would help the saffron party’s growth in the state. The meeting of the MLAs with Sitharaman, on Tuesday, was organised by Srinivasan, according to highly placed sources in the BJP. Srinivasan has always been cordial with former AIADMK minister S.P. Velumani, who is considered to be a party strongman in Coimbatore. AIADMK believes that it cannot reopen the negotiations with the BJP as long as Annamalai is the chief. Meanwhile, Annamalai is sticking to the threat that he will quit the party if the BJP decides to realign with the AIADMK.
Another option that the BJP is looking at is to ensure that the AIADMK loses its strength by way of many breakaway factions. As of now, the party is strong under Palaniswami, while a faction is with T.T.V. Dhinakaran.
Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam was the spoiler for the AIADMK in the southern districts in both in 2019 general elections and 2021 assembly polls. In fact, Palaniswami has already conveyed to the BJP leadership that the party is strong under him.
On October 2, as Sitharaman landed in Tamil Nadu to take part in an event in Coimbatore, Palaniswami opened up for the first time about the decision to snap ties. “Everyone says I haven’t spoken anything on the alliance break up. It is not my decision. It is the decision of the AIADMK cadres.”
Meanwhile, the BJP state unit office bearers met informally on Tuesday, and Annamalai will chair yet another meeting on Thursday to discuss the next course of action. Annamalai is at present camping in Delhi after he was summoned by the party leadership. On Monday, he called on J.P. Nadda and Sitharaman, while his request to meet Home Minister Amit Shah was denied.