From a political party that was once known for its cult-like, single-minded devotion to its late leader J Jayalalithaa to one that is now popularly ridiculed for being subservient to the BJP, the 46-year-old AIADMK has come a long way. So much so that a state minister no less proudly announced that in the absence of Amma(Jayalalithaa), Prime Minister Narendra Modi was their ‘daddy’.
Speaking to reporters in Virudhunagar district, Minister for Milk and Dairy Development KT Rajenthra Bhalaji said, “At a time when Amma is not there, Modi is only our daddy. India's daddy. We accept his leadership.”
While those in the AIADMK had long treated former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa as a mother figure, the revelation that PM Modi is thought of as a father figure comes as no surprise for the dynamics between the ruling AIADMK and the BJP have changed vastly between the 2014 and 2019 General Elections.
In 2014, the late AIADMK supremo, who decided that her party would contest alone, famously asked during the election campaign: "Who is a better administrator? Gujarat's Modi or this Tamil Nadu Lady?" The crowd had then exclaimed, `Lady'
The AIADMK contested in all the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies across Tamil Nadu and won a whopping 37 seats.
But with Jayalalithaa’s prolonged hospitalisation and subsequent death in December 2016, the AIADMK underwent a sea change. With current Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam rebelling against Jayalalithaa’s close aide VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, the party ultimately united thanks to the BJP’s involvement.
Though the AIADMK government under Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has survived for two years, the focus, it appears, is now on winning the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and the bye-elections for the 21 Assembly seats that currently lie vacant. As a result, it is bonanza time for the smaller parties as the AIADMK has had to share Lok Sabha seats with them.
The AIADMK has stitched together electoral alliances with the PMK (seven Lok Sabha seats and one Rajya Sabha seat), BJP (five Lok Sabha seats), Puthiya Tamizhagam and Puthiya Needhi Katchi (one Lok Sabha seat each) in exchange for these parties supporting the AIADMK during the bye-polls.
Even after knowing that ‘Captain’ Vijayakant-led DMDK has been holding parallel talks for an electoral alliance with the DMK, the ruling AIADMK has indicated that it is keeping its doors open. According to political analysts, for the AIADMK, even a party with one per cent vote share is important for the upcoming polls at this juncture.
The absence of a tall leader like Jayalalithaa is clearly telling on the AIADMK.
In the 235-member Assembly, the AIADMK has 114 members followed by the DMK with 88, Congress eight, one of the IUML, one Independent, the Speaker and 21 vacant seats (19 disqualified and two dead). Besides, there is a nominated member.
"The AIADMK can consolidate its position in the Assembly even if it wins 8-9 seats in the bypolls. The polls will also test its strength of two-leaves symbol under the current party leadership," Jhon Arokiasamy, political strategist, told IANS.
(With IANS input)