Two months after poll defeat, AIADMK debates wisdom of allying with BJP

Reports of rift between former CM Edappadi K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam – and their respective proxies

Former chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (right) and his deputy O Panneerselvam | File Photo: PTI

Two months after its comprehensive defeat in the Tamil Nadu assembly election, the AIADMK is still debating the wisdom of allying with the BJP ahead of the polls, with former chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and his deputy O Panneerselvam (OPS) – and their respective proxies – in opposing corners.

On Tuesday C Ve Shanmugam, former law minister and the AIADMK’s Viluppuram (North) unit secretary, said the tie-up with the BJP was the “prime reason” for the party’s defeat.

“The prime reason for the AIADMK’s defeat in this election is its alliance with the BJP,” he told party workers in Vanur, Viluppuram. “We lost the votes of minority communities due to this alliance. They did not have any problems with the AIADMK government, since it had earned their goodwill through welfare measures. Indeed, people were ready to re-elect the AIADMK. But the alliance arithmetic failed us,” he said.

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The next day OPS was quick to say that the alliance will continue. There is no second opinion on this issue, he tweeted, adding the party had “full faith” in the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Considering the interests of the nation and also the welfare of Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK-BJP alliance will continue and there is no second opinion on this,” he said.

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OPS’s statement came even as EPS continued to keep silent, leading to speculation that the former CM and his supporters backed Shanmugam’s assertion. In the past the two leaders had issued joint statements on issues that affect the party. They did so this time too – but only after speculation started building that the rift between them was deepening.

Interestingly, on Thursday Shanmugam told the media that his views were personal – and did not reflect the party’s official position.

According to sources, OPS was hoping for a ministerial berth for his son, Raveendranath, in the recent reshuffle of the Union Cabinet. Given Modi’s decision to overlook Raveendranath, it is not clear how long OPS will continue to support the BJP, they said.

“We have discussed the reasons for our defeat. According to some people one was the alliance with the BJP. But that in itself [election defeat] is no reason to sever ties with the party,” AIADMK spokesperson Kuralar Gopinathan told The Federal.

Both EPS and OPS have difference of opinions, but when it comes to the party, they are both on the same page, he added.

“After Shanmugam’s comment, OPS was first to issue a statement. Hours later both leaders released a joint statement. The timing may vary, but there is no contrarian view,” Gopinathan told The Federal.

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Gopinathan called reports of rift in the party DMK “propaganda”.

“Earlier too OPS had supported the BJP. But the BJP high command did not give any post to Raveendranath. So this is not a valid reason. Same with the claim that if the AIADMK does not support the BJP, the party will face legal cases,” he added.

Meanwhile, BJP state secretary Karu Nagarajan said: “As of now, the BJP-AIADMK alliance continues. It will continue till the respective party leaders want it to continue.”

Political commentator Pongalur Manikandan said EPS and his supporters are disappointed with the BJP. “The party cadre and general public know that OPS is supporting the BJP only because of his son. Due to the alliance with the BJP, the AIADMK has lost its minority vote bank. In Tiruppur district alone, they have lost 30 per cent of minority votes. The same with Dalit vote base. A large number of minorities in the AIADMK didn’t for the party,” he said.

He added that reports of a rift were not entirely false. “Otherwise why should it take the two leaders such a long time to issue a joint statement? This is not good for the party. People will think the BJP operates [sic] the AIADMK. That perception will cost the AIADMK,” he said.

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