After tortuous two-month long negotiations, the much-hyped NDA in Tamil Nadu spluttered to life on Thursday with BJP president Rajnath Singh, flanked by the leaders of five regional parties, formally unveiled the saffron party’s “grand southern alliance” as an alternative to the AIADMK and the DMK. The BJP-led front could pose a serious threat to both the Dravidian parties, AIADMK and DMK, especially in North and West Tamil Nadu.
The main players in the electoral drama will be the DMDK, headed by actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth, the MDMK headed by Vaiko, the PMK which is led by S Ramadoss, and two other smaller regional parties. The newly-forged partnership will launch a third element in Tamil Nadu’s hitherto largely bipolar politics. Although the DMDK did not win a single seat in 2009, in 2011 it pocketed 29 assembly seats, surging ahead of the DMK as the state’s main opposition party.
The Congress contesting alone could still pose a challenge in at least some of the eight constituencies where it has MPs, including the high profile Sivaganga constituency. Dravidian giants AIADMK and DMK, though, have a head start as they have kicked off their election campaigns.
Although the BJP has more parties with it, the vote share of the parties put together may not be enough to touch the two Dravidian parties as per votes and seats secured in the last two Lok Sabha polls. But it’s all but clear that the BJP-led front may cut into votes of the DMK and AIADMK in several seats, thereby reducing their victory margins.
The announcement of the alliance was delayed because of astrological reasons. Singh touched down at Chennai airport in a chartered flight around 11.30 am and proceeded to a city hotel for talks with the prospective allies. But no sooner he had finished the talks word got out about an inauspicious two-hour ‘Rahu Kalam’ setting in from 1 pm, astrologically taboo for announcing a new alliance.
Finally, around 4.20 pm, after much fussing over positioning of chairs and who would sit beside whom, Rajnath strode in with DMDK chief Vijayakanth. Vaiko had made his appearance on the makeshift stage 10 minutes earlier followed by PMK youth wing leader and former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
Around the same time leaders of allied parties Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK) and Konganadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK) strolled in with their partymen welcoming them with claps and whistles. The only jarring note was struck by the conspicuous absence of PMK patriarch Dr S Ramadoss, who, mediapersons were assured, “is on his way and will be here any moment”.
Welcoming the allies, Rajnath Singh thanked them for becoming partners of the NDA “to end UPA misrule”. Apart from UPA bashing on several counts, ranging from deteriorating national economy and security to weakening of the federal polity, he also harped on Tamil sentiments by assuring that NDA would accord top priority to address problems of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu, initiate measures to secure release of TN fishermen detained in Sri Lankan jails and protecting the interests of fishermen, including their right to livelihood with dignity.
“Due to the indecisive leadership and also lack of sincere efforts from UPA, India has not been able to impress the Sri Lankan government to resolve the issue of Sri Lankan Tamil problem. NDA will work hard and also effectively to convince Sri Lanka to resolve the problems soon. This is also needed in the interest of our national security,” he said.