What led to the AIADMK breaking off its alliance with the BJP and walking out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Monday? According to sources, the southern party wanted the BJP to remove or rein in its Tamil Nadu unit chief K Annamalai. When the saffron party refused, the AIADMK announced its break-up with the NDA.
BJP sources told News18 that this was the main demand of senior AIADMK leaders who met BJP president JP Nadda on Saturday, but the latter was not inclined to restrain its state chief. The AIADMK, thus, walked out of the alliance not over seat-sharing, but over the “insult” of its founders by the state BJP chief.
“The BJP is backing Annamalai who is leading a successful ‘En Mann, En Makkal’ yatra across Tamil Nadu and is trying to build a strong foundation for the party,” a BJP source said.
BJP leaders have been advised not to speak on the matter officially. But at least two BJP leaders said there is a ‘silver lining’ in the break-up as the BJP now gets a chance to “find its own feet” in Tamil Nadu and tie up with smaller parties for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The ‘Sanatan Dharma’ controversy has pitched the DMK against the BJP, with leaders of the latter pointing out how the AIADMK had not come out in support of the BJP on the controversy after DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin repeated his controversial remarks.
BJP sources also said that the AIADMK move is aimed at wooing the minority votes in Tamil Nadu. “We are still hopeful of AIADMK having a re-think and stay in the alliance,” another BJP source said.
The BJP had been in alliance with the AIADMK in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when the coalition won just one seat out of 39 in the state. The DMK won big both in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the subsequent Assembly elections as the AIADMK was caught in the bitter inter-party tussle between E Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam.
The BJP would, however, find it hard to explain why its allies like the AIADMK, Shiromani Akali Dal and the JD(U) have walked out of the NDA in important states like Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Bihar, respectively.
The 2024 fight in Tamil Nadu is now expected to be a direct one between the DMK and AIADMK, with the BJP being reduced to a marginal player, for now, like in other south Indian states like Kerala.