Days after the results of the Tamil Nadu rural local body polls were announced, a section of PMK cadres took to the streets in Thiruvallur district and alleged discrepancies in the victory of ally AIADMK’s candidates. The bone of contention is the ruling party contesting in more local body seats than had been orally agreed upon with the district and panchayat cadre of the PMK. No formal seat-sharing arrangement was formulated between the two allies.
However, this is not the first time in recent weeks that the party has been vocal against an ally.
In a resolution at its special general council meeting held last week, the PMK came out against implementing the Centre’s proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Tamil Nadu, saying it will create "unnecessary apprehension and tension" among people. The resolution pointed out that Tamil Nadu does not share land borders with any country and hence, there was no scope for people from other countries to illegally enter the state.
Citing reports that the National Population Register (NPR) was a pilot to the eventual roll out of the NRC, the PMK demanded that the BJP government clarify misgivings related to the two measures.
This, despite PMK Rajya Sabha MP Anbumani Ramadoss voting to pass the Citizenship Amendment Act in parliament.
The party resolution also comes close on the heels of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami announcing that work on the National Population Register (NPR) in the state will begin in April 2020.
Is the party’s nearly year-long relationship with the AIADMK, and its national ally the BJP turning sour?
‘No government without us’
At a recent meeting in Vizhupuram district, Rajya Sabha MP Anbumani Ramadoss, the youth wing leader of the party, expressed disappointment with the AIADMK alliance. He said, "We changed our principle that we wouldn't ally with anyone and opted for an alliance (with the AIADMK). I'm upset that even that has not received recognition. Without our alliance, there would be no AIADMK government today. We were forced into asking for small time seats in the local body polls”
Miffed with the seat-sharing for the local body polls, he said, “During the bye-elections that took place simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls, they (the AIADMK) asked for all the (22) seats since they had to come to power and we gave them.”
The bye-polls were crucial for the survival of the AIADMK government. The party won nine of 22 seats, managing to retain power.
Stating that being part of the AIADMK alliance doesn't diminish the PMK’s strength, he added, “Forming an alliance is for a period of time, it is political, it is an electoral strategy.”
Requesting the AIADMK leadership to “take our suggestions and pay heed”, he said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had lauded PMK chief S Ramadoss as a senior political leader in India.
‘A signal to cadres’
Even at the time of the party entering into an alliance with the AIADMK, the PMK was heavily criticised, for it had spent the last couple of years slamming the ruling party and its policies. In fact, Anbumani Ramadoss continues to be a party to the case against the government and National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) plans for the Salem-Chennai expressway.
Speaking to TNM, political analyst Tharasu Shyam says, “For all practical purposes, the alliance is over. Usually, an alliance begins with a handshake between leaders and then the cadres. The public expression of disappointment by Anbumani Ramadoss is now a signal to cadres to look for an alternate alliance. Breaking off alliances is not new for the PMK. In fact, their alliance with (former AIADMK chief and Chief Minister) Jayalalithaa came to an end in 2001 only after a few months.”
Shyam points out that the PMK was given 20 percent of the seat share in the Lok Sabha polls last year with seven seats. “However, this was not replicated in the local body polls. Ideally, they should have come to a formal agreement for the same 20 percent. But the allotment was such that the BJP was in second place by number of local body seats. Moreover, Anbumani Ramadoss was hoping to get a Cabinet berth which hasn’t happened,” he says.
With the camps of Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam vying for a post in the Union cabinet and unable to reach a decision, no leader from the state is now represented in the Prime Minister’s Council of Ministers.
Shyam adds, “What remains to be seen is whether the PMK will attempt to join the DMK again."