BJP hopes to gain support from AIADMK
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
Despite reports that the Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to team up with it, the Jayalalitha-led All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu is still keeping its options open, at least till the next Lok Sabha election comes around.
The BJP's efforts are part of its plan to contest the next election on its own steam and then try to haul in the regional parties and groups to form a ruling coalition at the Centre, according to informed sources.
"There is no truth in media speculation that the BJP is moving closer to the AIADMK, or it that may form an alliance with the regional party," claimed a senior state-level party functionary, adding that "bringing back a party-led government at the Centre is of utmost importance. the rest can wait".
He adds: "We may win a few seats that we can call our own, but that would imply that we are closing our post-poll options at the national-level." But it is at the Centre that the BJP hopes to make an impact.
The BJP hopes to win the Nagercoil parliamentary seat even without tying up with the AIADMK, whenever elections are held there. Nagercoil first saw an anti-Jayalalitha wave that aided the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Tamil Maanila Congress combine. There was also reaction to the TMC's Kumari Anandan joining the Congress at the last minute. "We foresee a multi-cornered contest, and we can sail through it," the party functionary said.
N Dennis, a former Congressman representing the TMC, won the seat for the sixth time in a row, but the BJP's Pon Radhakrishnan came a comfortable second. Kumari Anandan, a local leader with a State-level image, contesting on a Congress-AIADMK alliance ticket, lost his deposit.
"The polarisation of votes did not help the TMC-DMK combine much, and the winning margin of 75,000 votes is not unsurmountable... in a genuine multi-cornered contest that we visualise," the BJP leader said. The party has reportedly given Radhakrishnan the 'go-head' to start the spadework for the next elections.
The 1996 polls also saw the BJP winning a lone assembly seat. M Velayudham won the Padmanabhanpuram assembly seat which falls under the Nagercoil Lok Sabha constituency. The seat had once been held by the Hindu Front. The BJP overall hopes to garner about half a dozen assembly seats across the state in the next elections.
"Like other political parties in the state, we also do not foresee fresh assembly elections for another four years... But that may not be the case with the Lok Sabha poll. While a Nagercoil victory, if we achieve it, would show the BJP as a truly national party, we will be more interested in bringing the party back to power at the Centre. We would rather choose the winner or a workable combination from among them, than bet on someone without knowing his or her winning chances."
While BJP leaders admit the party is getting close to the AIADMK on Hindutva and related issues, they are worried that once the BJP is in power at the Centre, Jayalalitha will demand the immediate ouster of the Karunanidhi government.
Both the DMK and TMC were reportedly not averse to support a BJP government at the Centre, public protestations to the contrary.
"They did not want to waste their 37-strong combine membership in the Lok Sabha, and that's understandable," one BJP leader said. "They reportedly wanted the BJP to muster 240 MPs before committing their members to ensure a stable government. We could not muster 240 MPs, and they went their way."
In this context, he referred to the remarks -- later denied -- of top DMK and TMC leaders, claiming that 'no one is untouchable for us in national politics', when the BJP was forming a ministry at the Centre last year.
The BJP does not expect any party or combine to make a clean sweep of the state and so hopes to work out a winning combination after the poll.