AIADMK cadres unhappy with party’s continuing ties with the BJP

Leaders are confused, most cadres are however clear that they don't want to align with the BJP, an AIADMK source tells TNM.
Modi holding up OPS and EPS hands on a stage
Modi holding up OPS and EPS hands on a stage

Will a continued alliance with the BJP hurt the AIADMK further? This is a major question raised after the AIADMK’s loss in the 2022 Tamil Nadu urban local body polls. The Dravidian major bowed out following the poll results on February 22, with the DMK winning all 21 municipal corporations, 61.41% of the municipal councilor seats and 57.59% of town panchayat seats. However, what hit the AIADMK hardest was its rout in the western districts of Tamil Nadu — Erode, Salem (Salem Corporation), Coimbatore (Corporation) etc — considered the party’s bastion. 

With this loss, the existing resentment within the party over its continuation in the NDA has only grown, say sources. Ahead of the local body polls, the AIADMK announced that it was contesting separately for the civic polls, but would continue its alliance with the BJP for all future elections (Assembly and Lok Sabha). The AIADMK also lost in the Edappadi municipality in Salem, the hometown of former Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami; and in all six municipalities in Theni district, including Periyakulam, where former Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam hails from. 

A former Lok Sabha member of the AIADMK tells TNM that many AIADMK cadres now feel the party should not align with the BJP ever. "Leaders are confused, most cadres are however clear that they don't want to align with the BJP. They feel that the Edappadi Palaniswami statement that we are still with the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) sent out a wrong message,” he says. “In short, the AIADMK is reaping no benefits from the BJP alliance, and also has to bear the negative image that comes with the NDA.”

Within party circles, many feel that not attacking the BJP and its policies during campaigns has also cost the AIADMK.

Party leaders are still reluctant to openly decry the alliance; KC Palanisamy, who was ousted from the party a few years ago, says that the absence of an ideological alliance between the AIADMK and the BJP is the main issue. “When senior leaders like Edappadi K Palaniswami support ‘one nation-one election’ — a BJP-RSS brainchild — AIADMK cadres resent it as they believe Amma and MGR would never support it,” says KC Palanisamy.

Unhappiness over BJP’s image management

The BJP has been on an overdrive since the results came out, projecting itself as the main opposition in Tamil Nadu. Almost every national BJP leader has tweeted congratulating state president K Annamalai.

Though the numbers are indicative of a growth for the BJP, it does not point to the party becoming a ‘viable alternative’ in the state as claimed by many BJP leaders.

In fact this narrative has irked the AIADMK further. When BJP media spokesperson SG Suryah tweeted that in Coimbatore, AIADMK would have lost in eight or nine seats if not for the BJP, AIADMK IT wing Secretary Singai Ramachandran said the BJP is living in dreamland. 

Posting a data chart on Twitter, Ramachandran said, “Once again, we didn't win because of BJP, we won with our work. Stop spreading fake news.” Ramachandran later also posted a detailed thread on the same. 

Singai Ramachandran also said the propaganda that AIADMK lost 100 wards in Coimbatore because of disassociating itself with the BJP is also false. BJP contested in 97 wards out of 100 wards in Coimbatore, and won no seats. 

“BJP has got less than 1,000 votes in 80 wards and less than 500 votes in 34 wards out of the 97 wards they contested in. AIADMK did not get less than 500 votes in any ward and only in seven wards, AIADMK got less than 1,000 votes. BJP has got more than 2,000 votes only in four wards out of 97, whereas in 48 wards AIADMK has got more than 2,000 votes,” he said. 

He concluded that even if the BJP’s votes were added to the AIADMK’s kitty, they would still not have won.

The BJP has currently won 230 town panchayat wards, 56 municipality wards and 22 corporation wards. In 2011, the party had won 185 Town Panchayat wards, 37 municipality wards and four corporation wards. The party’s vote share rose overall by 0.7%.

In this election, the party failed to open its account in 10 districts. The BJP was also routed in the Kongu-districts (western district), where the party claims its presence is growing rapidly. Despite Coimbatore South having a BJP MP, the party’s candidates in 67 wards out of 100 wards in the Coimbatore corporation lost their deposits, Palanisamy points out.

The AIADMK has won 1206 out of 7621 town panchayat wards, 638 out of 3843 seats in municipalities and 164 out of 1374 wards in corporations in the 2022 polls. 

In 2011, the AIADMK, which was then ruling Tamil Nadu, had won 2,849 out of 8,303 seats in town panchayat wards, 1,680 out of 3,697 seats in municipalities and 556 out of 820 wards in municipal corporations. (The number of municipal corporations have increased from 10 to 21 since the previous polls).

According to a senior journalist in Tamil Nadu, “Currently the AIADMK is unable to perform or project itself as an effective opposition. So the BJP is eating into the AIADMK’s space.”

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