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January 14, 1998


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BJP list ignites AIADMK fury

N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras

With the Bharatiya Janata Party unilaterally announcing its nominees for three Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leadership finds itself in a bind of its own making.

If AIADMK sources question the propriety of the BJP coming out with its first list when alliance talks were inconclusive, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which is part of the combine, sees it as one more instance of slighting at the hands of other partners.

''The unspoken agreement was that the alliance leader, namely AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha, would announce the seat-sharing details,'' says an MDMK source. ''But the BJP has now jumped the gun by coming out with its first list, without informing the other partners. We do not know whether they had consulted the AIADMK.''

More than anything, the MDMK is peeved at the BJP announcing its candidate for the Coimbatore constituency. Both the parties had staked its claim for the seat. If the MDMK plans to field its treasurer M Kannappan form the constituency, the BJP feels it is in a strong position, in the light of the recent communal clashes in which local policemen openly took sides with Hindutva supporters.

Even without this, the MDMK has run into problems with the AIADMK. Though it is is being taken for granted that MDMK general secretary V Gopalaswamy would get the Sivakasi seat, he is under tremendous pressure from his party to accommodate at least five other senior leaders in the constituencies of their choice. All of them have rival claimants, including the AIADMK.

There are also lesser aspirants close to the MDMK leadership, but the AIADMK seems determined to keep the former's tally at four, or a maximum of five, as in the case of the BJP and the Pattali Makkal Katchi. The party wants eight, and Gopalaswamy's talks with Jayalalitha on Monday were inconclusive, at best.

The MDMK source also says the party was 'continuously slighted' by the AIADMK in recent months. ''Though we were the first major political party to join hands with the AIADMK, we feel sidelined with the BJP first, and the PMK later, joining the alliance.'' He also points to Gopalswamy's name being printed below that of PMK supremo S Ramadoss in the invitations for the AIADMK's silver jubilee conference at Tirunelveli earlier this month.

Hitting back, an AIADMK source refers to Gopalswamy arriving at the conference venue nearly a hour after Jayalalitha and other alliance leaders had landed. ''He was in Tirunelveli or thereabouts for nearly a week, yet he came to the conference late, to show his cadres that Jayalalitha had to stand up and welcome him in public.'' This, he says, has left a bad taste in the AIADMK cadres.

The source also refers to the MDMK cadres walking out of the conference venue, 'mildly disturbing' the proceedings, once Gopalswamy finished his speech. ''They were trying to send out a message, that the MDMK mattered most in the southern districts, of which Tirunelveli is a part.''

In contrast, says the AIADMK source, the BJP and the PMK have no pretensions. ''They have their own strengths and egos. The BJP has its own national agenda, and does not stand on symbolism while dealing with us. Though a difficult leader to convince, given his own changing moods and concepts, Ramadoss is a straight person, and is simple enough to deal with.''

Despite all this, however, the AIADMK source is cut up with the BJP for making Jayalalitha's position difficult by its own unilateral announcement. ''Alliance politics is tight-rope walking, more so when diverse forces, as the ones we have collected, are involved,'' says he. ''That being the case, the BJP as a mature national party should have refrained from going public on seat-sharing after holding back for this long. After all, we too would have finalised the entire arrangement in a couple of days, anyway.''

Of the three seats for which the BJP had named candidates, at least two -- Nagercoil and south Madras -- had been allotted to it, and there were no contender for them. Even the names had been known -- BJP vice-president K Jana Krishnamurthy for Madras South and Pon Radhakrishnan, two-time loser in Nagercoil.

''By adding Coimbatore, the BJP has not only violated the basic principles of coalition politics on seat-sharing, but also entered a controversial territory,'' says the AIADMK source.

The BJP in turn is also not without apprehensions. The party had asked for more seats than the five allotted to it. ''And we cannot wait endlessly for others to finish their part of the talks,'' says a leader. ''Our resources are limited in the state, and we will have to launch our campaign early, to catch up with the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham-Tamil Maanila Congress combine.'' The party hopes the controversy over the Salem seat, sought for recent entrant Rangarajan Kumaramangalam, too, will be sorted out smoothly.

The AIADMK is under pressure. With the BJP coming out with its first list, the MDMK leadership is also under pressure to unilaterally declare its own list of candidates. The MDMK leader says, ''The BJP seems to think it has done the smartest thing by handing us all down a fait accompli. Two can play the game, and what is more, they cannot win their traditional seats without the MDMK-AIADMK vote.'' He adds, as an after-thought, ''Our leadership is also under pressure from the cadres to go on our own.''

UNI adds: The BJP has described as 'most unfortunate' the release of the list.

A party statement said the TN list was not approved by the central election committee and was kept pending until the list was simultaneously announced on January 19 by the BJP and the AIADMK.

However, due to some mix-up at the BJP headquarters which 'we consider as most unfortunate', the list, which is yet to be finalised, got released to the media.

''We are extremely sorry for the unintended embarrassment caused to our allies in Tamil Nadu,'' the statement said.

Reports said Jayalalitha had expressed surprise and displeasure at the release of the list by the BJP.

AIADMK alliance runs into rough weather

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