It’s Complicated: Is the BJP-AIADMK Love-Hate Alliance Destined to Last?

Manjiri Chitre | Feb 23, 2019 | 5 min read


Analyzing the pre-Amma and post-Amma scenarios, and how both the parties are going to benefit with this alliance, considering the weaker position of AIADMK in the state of Tamil Nadu when compared to its arch rival DMK 


When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was looking at creating history in Indian politics by serving his full term as the first non-Congress Prime Minister back in 1998, a woman shattered the dreams of the eldest bachelor in the Lok Sabha. 

In 1999, the relationship between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) had almost reached a point of no return, when J. Jayalalithaa pulled out from the National Democratic Party (NDA). In retaliation, the Vajpayee government had also withdrawn its support to Jayalalithaa. 

A lot has since transpired between the two parties. In 1998, after the Indian National Congress (INC) had withdrawn its support to the Inder Kumar Gujral-led government, the AIADMK had joined hands with the BJP-led NDA government. However, following the upheaval between Amma and the Vajpayee government, the AIADMK withdrew its support to the saffron party. 

In 1999, for the first time, the BJP forged an alliance with the DMK, led by late M. Karunanidhi, former chief minister of Tamil Nadu. The NDA, along with the DMK, won 26 of the total 39 seats, back then. However, in 2003, just a few months before the Lok Sabha polls in 2004, the DMK walked out of the NDA when the BJP tried to shake hands with the AIADMK, which ultimately proved to be an unsuccessful move and the BJP’s undoing.

Meanwhile, the DMK had forged an alliance with the UPA-led Congress party. The 2004 Lok Sabha elections proved to be a shocker for the NDA, as it couldn't even open its account in Tamil Nadu. The DMK started coming out stronger, and swept 35 seats along with the UPA. 

In 2014, just before the general elections, the BJP formed an anti-Jayalalithaa and anti-Karunanidhi front consisting of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi (KDMK), PNK, and Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK). However, the alliance proved to be a failure in no time. The AIADMK bagged 37 of the 39 seats, while the BJP and PMK won one seat each. The DMK was left high and dry. 

Again, in the 2016 Assembly elections, the BJP tried to forge an alliance with the AIADMK so that the party could have some hold in this elusive state. Once more, it failed. BJP’s repeated attempts at forming an alliance in the South is now history, so are its efforts to make its presence felt in Tamil Nadu. 

In the current dynamics of the state, the party is still struggling to get off the mark. But now, the BJP sees an opening. 

On the evening of February 7, 2017, when the waters in the Bay of Bengal were calm, a political tornado was brewing on the famous Marina Beach of the capital city of Tamil Nadu. Sitting next to the ‘samadhi’ of one of Tamil Nadu’s greatest leaders, then chief minister O Panneerselvam declared something which the BJP had been waiting for a very long time – a rift within the AIADMK, the ruling party of the Dravidian state. The death of AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa had opened the doors for the saffron party to make inroads into the state, but this time, riding on the party leaders’ political ambitions. 

Finally, after 15 years, the BJP again joined hands with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on February 19, to contest the Lok Sabha elections and bypolls to 21 State Assembly constituencies. If the alliance proves to be a success, it could be a win-win situation for both parties, as after Jayalalithaa’s demise, either party could not have managed to fight the strong DMK-led alliance on its own. 

Said BJP spokesperson Narayanam Tirupathi, “It is a formidable alliance against the communal DMK in Tamil Nadu. This alliance will get the maximum number of seats. It will be a people’s welfare government, where we fill the seats and form a government once again under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We are also welcoming other parties if they are willing to come along.” 

He also said that the BJP has committed that it will support the AIADMK in the State Assembly elections. This year’s election will be a litmus test for the BJP as well as the AIADMK. "It is climbdown for both parties. We have to wait and see how the voters are going to look at this. It is evident that the parties are exhibiting nervousness," said A.S. Panneerselvan, Reader's Editor of the Hindu, and a political commentator. 

Currently, M.K. Stalin is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable faces in Tamil Nadu. The DMK is touted to win Tamil Nadu. So if we look at it, the alliance might not have happened, had Amma been alive. An AIADMK sans Amma simply does not have the electoral weight, is the rationale behind the new alliance. We could say that this is a new weakened AIADMK standing for elections. This is Tamil Nadu’s biggest election without their Amma -- Jayalalithaa -- and Kalaignar -- Karunanidhi -- in the picture. For the AIADMK, the alliance will act as an umbrella coalition to prevent its downslide, whereas for the BJP, it is more of finding a foothold in the South. The party desperation in looking for alliances raises the question: Does the party still lack confidence? 

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