Rajini’s delay, discord in AIADMK force BJP to wait it out in Tamil Nadu
Recent developments in Tamil Nadu indicate that the BJP has decided to wait and watch in the state. The party’s plan seems to be to exploit the political vacuum created by the passing of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the retirement of ailing DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi.
It has decided against destabilising the faction-ridden AIADMK government and thereby precipitating a mid-term poll in the state. Instead, it is aiming for merger of the two factions so that it can go into the 2019 Lok Sabha election with the support of a united AIADMK and film star Rajinikanth.
Such a strategy will give time to all stake-holders, the Edappadi Palaniswami and O Pannerselvam groups to iron out their differences over the merger and thereafter jointly counter the challenge thrown by self-appointed deputy general secretary of AIADMK Amma faction TTV Dinakaran. It would also give breathing time for Rajinikanth to float a party, probably in the next few months and consolidate it over the year and a half before the next Lok Sabha election.
Will Rajini take the plunge?
Rajini has made it clear that he will take the plunge only after completing the shooting schedule of two of his current movies— Kaala and Enthiran 2. At 67, after over 40 years in films, he can take a bow and start a new innings in the political arena.
If the BJP precipitates a mid-term poll in the state, it will be forced to project Rajini as the CM candidate. It will amount to handing over power on a platter to him after having done the groundwork since the passing of Jayalalithaa in December last year.
Instead if it bides its time till the next Lok Sabha polls, Rajini’s popularity can be exploited to its advantage. Reluctant as he is to enter state politics, he will only be too happy to throw his weight behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a national election.
It will also give time to the state unit of the BJP as well as RSS to use their network at the grassroots level to spread their message.
Another reason for the rethink in the BJP is its failure to contain Dinakaran. When his aunt and self-appointed general secretary VK Sasikala tried to capture power with the support of 123 MLAs, the Supreme Court judgment on the assets case came in handy and her conviction disqualified her from the race and landed her in Bengaluru jail to serve a three year term.
But Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao could not prevent Edapaddi K Palanisamy from forming the government as he had the support of the 123 MLAs in the 234-member House.
Though seen initially as a proxy of Sasikala, Edapaddi has distanced himself from her and Dinakaran, supposedly under pressure from the Centre. He and his MLAs also supported the Modi government on the GST and the election of the BJP nominees in the presidential and vice-presidential elections.
On his part, Dinakaran has proven to be a difficult customer. When he tried to get into the Assembly and grab power through the RK Nagar by-election, the Election Commission got the poll itself cancelled on the valid ground of large-scale distribution of money to voters.
As if that was enough, the Delhi police arrested Dinakaran on the basis of an alleged phone conversation he had had with criminal Sukesh Chandrasekhar. He was sent to Delhi’s Tihar jail on the ground that he tried to bribe an unnamed Election Commission official. So brazenly cooked up was the case that at the very first appearance before the local court, the judge granted bail to Dinakaran.
Upon his return, Dinakaran asked tongue-in-cheek if the two factions had come together On the advice of Sasikala, he gave the two groups time till August after which he would resume work.
With the deadline ending and merger nowhere in sight, Dinakaran has appointed office-bearers, including 20 MLAs. Some of them declined only to accept later. Having proved a point, Dinakaran has stayed away from the AIADMK headquarters as he does not want to create a law and order problem for the Palaniswami government. But he has announced that he will tour the state.
It is said that the only way for the Centre to rein him in is by expediting a two decade old FERA violation case against him.
Already, the CBI has approached the special court for a day to day hearing.
Dinakaran candidly says that the two factions are scared of the BJP. At the same time, he says that it is but natural that the state government should cooperate with the Centre in the interest of Tamil Nadu. He also says that he will not topple this regime as it is AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa’s government.
The Palaniswami government’s weakness is its strength. Most of the MLAs are first-timers and Jayalalithaa’s parting gift to them is a five-year term which will end in 2021. So they want the status quo to continue.
Once the rival O Pannerselvam faction is pressured into merging with the ruling group, the government can breathe easy. The solution that is being talked about is that Palaniswami should continue as Chief Minister while Pannerselvam can take over as general secretary to serve a party that Jayalalitha built into a fortress over 28 years she was at the helm.
If the two factions come together, they may not mind going along with BJP and Rajini as they need an iconic leader to fill the void left by Amma.