CHENNAI : After its unprecedented showing in the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, the BJP is eyeing Tamil Nadu to expand its political base in the south.
For nearly five decades, Tamil Nadu’s politics has been dominated by the Dravidian parties with the Congress playing second fiddle to the regional forces. Since 1998, the BJP too has been happy to remain a minor constituent in alliances variedly led by the AIADMK, DMK and DMDK.
However, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerging as a popular mascot elsewhere and the principal opposition party DMK appearing famished, BJP general secretary Muralidhar Rao, who is in-charge of the party’s Tamil Nadu unit, is sensing an opportunity for expansion. The 40 seats from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry hold strategic value as part of an alternative power bloc. “Tamil Nadu will be the epicentre of our party’s efforts for expansion in the South. The ideological pillars of the Dravidian parties have eroded due to a host of factors, starting from the state of the major parties today to the advance in genetic sciences that have proved that the people of the region are not racially different from people in the rest of the country,” argues Muralidhar Rao.
However, he adds that this is not the only factor that has contributed to what he calls a ‘conducive atmosphere for the BJP’s growth’ here. “Since 2013 Assembly elections in a few states, the Lok Sabha polls and the current Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, anti-incumbency has played a big role. And, the BJP has benefitted from it because under the leadership of Narendra Modi, it has represented a clean brand of politics and good governance,” he says.
Analysts, however, feel that this anti-incumbency may not really play out the BJP’s way in Tamil Nadu as the ruling AIADMK had single-handedly bagged a record 37 seats in the last Parliamentary elections. The party could perhaps aspire for a vocal political role as a serious third contender to start with. In fact, Rao tiptoed around the question of whether the BJP would attempt to replicate its success in Maharashtra and Haryana by facing elections on its own. “These considerations vary from region to region. We continue to be in an alliance with our partners of the Lok Sabha elections.”
The alliance, however, stands precariously, with PMK founder S Ramadoss and MDMK chief Vaiko attacking the NDA government, and with the DMDK in internal disarray. The true test would come in the 2016 Assembly polls as the parties fight for the spot of primacy within the alliance.