In a decisive and somewhat expected turn of events, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have officially ended their alliance, signaling a shift in the political dynamics of Tamil Nadu. After weeks of mounting tensions and public disagreements, AIADMK General-Secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami has called it quits, stating that he can no longer tolerate the assertive behavior of Tamil Nadu BJP Chief K Annamalai. This rupture in the alliance can be traced back to a fundamental disagreement between the two parties. Palaniswami had been urging the BJP leadership to rein in Annamalai and appoint a neutral alliance convener, distancing Annamalai from the decision-making process.
However, the BJP chose to support Annamalai, primarily driven by its broader electoral strategy that seeks to pit Sanatana Dharma against Periyar’s Dravidian principles in Tamil Nadu. The BJP views Tamil Nadu as a laboratory to test its Hindutva-driven politics, a strategy that Annamalai’s assertiveness aligns with. His frequent anti-AIADMK remarks and provocations further exacerbated the situation, causing a significant strain on the already fragile alliance. The alliance, as one AIADMK politician aptly put it, had become “non-existent” and was destined to fall apart before the 2024 general elections.
Contrary to AIADMK’s characterization of Annamalai as a “destructive pest,” the BJP sees him as a dynamic force driving change in Tamil Nadu politics. This divide highlights the evolving landscape in Tamil Nadu, where traditional political norms are being challenged. While MK Stalin may appear to be in a strong position now, he should not become complacent. The 46-year-old Udhayanidhi Stalin cannot maintain a hero-like status indefinitely in the ever-changing world of politics. Expecting Annamalai to play a subordinate role to Palaniswami was unrealistic. The BJP would not agree to Palaniswami leading the TN state NDA, as evidenced by Palaniswami’s private meeting with Amit Shah in New Delhi. The widening gap between AIADMK and BJP was insurmountable. AIADMK leaders attempted various strategies, from playing the “self-respect card” to demanding action, but they could not sway BJP’s top leadership. The AIADMK-BJP alliance was destined to crumble, and this outcome marks a short-term victory for Annamalai and a setback for Edappadi Palaniswami. However, it’s essential to note that South India, aside from Karnataka, remains uncharted territory for the BJP. Tamil Nadu remains beyond the BJP’s reach, and Kerala is a challenge due to its unique political landscape.
The emergence of the INDI-Alliance has complicated the BJP’s prospects in South India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah may struggle to make inroads in Kerala and Tamil Nadu unless Annamalai can secure Lok Sabha seats for the BJP. Nevertheless, the BJP’s attempts in the south have often been unsuccessful, leading to perceptions of it as an invading force from North India. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and INDI-Alliance strategist MK Stalin recognizes that the BJP faces significant challenges in the state. Despite efforts like relocating Jawaharlal Nehru’s Sengol to the New Parliament, the BJP’s influence in Tamil Nadu remains limited. The party’s plans for alliances in other southern states, such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala, have also encountered obstacles. Only Karnataka remains a stronghold, but recent elections suggest that change may be on the horizon there as well. The south continues to be a complex and challenging region for the BJP to navigate.