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'BJP is sitting pretty in Tamil Nadu'

By Shobha Warrier
September 25, 2017 10:33 IST
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'The BJP doesn't have to do anything except nudge the AIADMK in one direction.'
'As the BJP does not have strength at the grassroot level, they are playing the Rajinikanth card.'

Prime Minister Narendra D Modi welcomed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in Coimbatore, February 24, 2017.

The political scene in Tamil Nadu these days resembles a production from the Theatre of the Absurd.

Nobody knows who is with who in the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

No one knows if Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan -- Tamil movie superstars -- will plunge into what their contemporary Amitabh Bachchan once described as a 'cesspool' -- politics.


Dr P Sudarshan, co-ordinator, Tamil Nadu Election Watch, and trustee, Association of Democratic Reforms, tells's Shobha Warrier what could happen in the days to come.

Do you see an end to this anytime soon?

Nobody wants an election; not the AIADMK, not the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), not the DMK, not even the people of Tamil Nadu.

The Lok Sabha elections are coming in 2019. We have not had local body elections for a long time.

In fact, there is election fatigue in the state.

The government was staggering from one crisis to another, but with the disqualification of 18 MLAs who were with the T T V Dinakaran camp, it appears the situation is slowly stabilising.

More and more people may move to the OPS-EPS (Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami) group soon because they are not going to gain anything by being with Dinakaran.

Only those who are extremely loyal to him and (Dinakaran's aunt and ousted AIADMK leader V K) Sasikala will remain with the group which may not be more than 10.

The disqualification may lead to by-elections which means more MLAs to the EPS-OPS camp.

That also means the AIADMK government will not be a minority government.

Dinakaran and the DMK label the disqualification of 18 MLAs by the assembly speaker as unconstitutional. Is it really unconstitutional?

If the number of MLAs defected is less than 25% of the legislature party, it does not come under the anti-defection law and the party can disqualify the MLAs.

I think that's why the AIADMK cleverly waited till enough number of MLAs moved to their side and the Dinakaran camp has less than 25% people on their side.

Is half the battle won for the OPS-EPS camp now that Dinakaran and Sasikala are out of the party? Will the aunt and nephew make a comeback?

I don't see them making a comeback.

There are so many cases against Dinakaran, so, legally, there is a long battle ahead for him.

And Sasikala has control only in the Thanjavur area, but that's not the case with either EPS or OPS.

Both of them have grassroot support from most of the areas in Tamil Nadu.

Both of them together can run the party as they have the support of a majority of the MLAs.

I don't see Dinakaran and Sasikala making a comeback.

People were behind them because they controlled the finances of the party and even Jaya TV.

Now that the party has expelled Sasikala from the party, slowly, they will take over the finances including Jaya TV.

Once the party gets back the money, they will not need Dinakaran or Sasikala anymore.

Can EPS or OPS win another election for the AIADMK?

Yes, that is a big question.

They still have no vision for the party or the state.

The people of Tamil Nadu knew what Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi stood for and what their ideology was on all the issues the state faced.

Both had an aura around them too. But what do EPS and OPS stand for? Nobody knows.

We also know that they are dependent on the Centre.

It is true that they need funds for the state. But they give the impression that the BJP is in control of the party.

It is said the BJP had a hand in the merger too. Do you think the BJP is trying to make a mark in the state through this government?

I would say the BJP is sitting pretty right now.

They don't have to do anything except nudge these people into one direction. They can sit back and enjoy.

That is because the DMK is not in a position to take advantage of the situation as there are so many cases against many of their prominent people like Kanimozhi, Maran, Raja, etc.

If some of them go to jail, the DMK will once again be in a huge turmoil.

In the case of the AIADMK, there is no leadership and no direction.

As the BJP does not have strength at the grassroot level, they are playing the Rajinikanth card.

But the question is, whether Rajinikanth wants to go with the BJP or not.

The BJP needs Rajinikanth, but Rajinikanth doesn't need the BJP.

A survey found that 25% to 30% of the people want him (Rajinikanth) as the CM and after Stalin, he is the most popular person.

Will Rajinikanth plunge into politics?

I do see that he has political interest.

He is quite clever in that he is waiting for the right time to announce the decision.

If there is going to be an election in a year, we will see both Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth plunging in right now.

Since there is so much uncertainty, they cannot plan strategies now.

That is why I am saying the BJP is sitting pretty.

Everybody is in wait and watch mode as nobody knows what will happen tomorrow.

Rajinikanth has to be the CM candidate and has to have the support of a few parties too.

The BJP cannot be the only party he would like to have in alliance.

Now that the 18 MLAs from the Dinakaran camp have been disqualified, will OPS and EPS start administering the state, at least for their own survival?

They have to. Otherwise, they will not survive.

The DMK has a solid vote bank of 26% to 27% who will stay with the party for many more years which is an advantage for Stalin.

This is not the case with the AIADMK.

Jayalalithaa saw to it that there were no second rung leaders.

People like OPS, EPS, Sengottian etc have been with the party for so long. They need to form a consensus group and take decisions together, and if they do that, they may even win the elections next time.

Do you see this government continuing till the next election?

Unless some other external force plays a game, I feel this government will continue, at least till the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

If the OPS-EPS combination feel they are ready to face the people, they may go for an election in 2019.

IMAGE: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami welcomes Prime Minister Narendra D Modi in Coimbatore, February 24, 2017.

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