Even as the BJP leadership in Tamil Nadu is grappling with chaos on a daily basis in seat-sharing talks with allies, a sense of disquiet has descended upon the party’s activists and grassroots workers in the State. At the root of their concern is the fact that the party has bungled badly in conducting the alliance talks and, hence, has lost the advantage in reaping the ‘Modi wave’ sweeping across the State.
Veteran BJP activists, who have served the organisation for decades, feel that the beginning itself was bad, that the leaders erred gravely when they failed to start the talks from a position of strength. “They gave the impression that the BJP was much organisationally weak and, hence, desperately needed the support of other parties that have a strong cadre,” pointed out Y S Kannan, whose association with the BJP, RSS and Hindu Munnani goes back to more than three decades.
The State leadership exaggerated the importance of the DMDK in particular, which had scored low in the opinion polls, and created a wrong impression in the minds of the central leaders, he said.
According to him, the leaders should have established that the “fulcrum” of the talks was the “Modi wave” in the State and moved the dice accordingly. “However, instead of cornering a major share of the seats as the alliance leader, they were reduced to the role of a junior partner.” Echoing him, a former party district president said individual leaders were bending backwards to accommodate the allies in order to win from their constituencies and ensure “a place under the sun” if Narendra Modi became the prime minister. “Otherwise, why should the BJP form alliance with other parties that have no common ideology,” he asked.
Also, due to overwhelming selfish interests, the party leaders had sacrificed important seats like Tiruchy to “sabotage” the chances of other leaders who were perceived as a threat, he said. “In Salem, we lost one of our general secretaries. Instead of honouring his memory by contesting and winning the seat, they gave it away.”
Trying to bring the DMDK and PMK, which were “natural rivals”, on the same platform was another monumental mistake and root cause for the continuing stalemate in talks, senior activists felt. Most importantly, the negotiations were conducted by a junior and inexperienced team. “They were essentially office-bearers of the party,” a senior leader quipped. “They lacked the confidence and skill to conduct negotiations.”
Another leader said senior functionaries were totally kept in the dark about the talks, with only a small coterie engaged in the proceedings.
While BJP State vice-president H Raja exuded confidence that all minor hiccups would be resolved and the alliance would emerge victorious in the polls, party veterans struck a different note. “The entire exercise sends wrong signals and the party cadre is demoralised and frustrated,” they said.