Why AIADMK called it quits with BJP in Tamil Nadu

The AIADMK’s announcement ending its alliance with the national party has stunned the BJP leadership.
K Annamalai and Edappadi K Palaniswami
K Annamalai and Edappadi K Palaniswami
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The alliance between the AIADMK and BJP hit rock bottom due to the escalating tension between Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai and the senior leaders of the Dravidian party. On September 18, the AIADMK made a surprise announcement that the party is officially ending its alliance with the BJP.

This sudden announcement by the AIADMK has stunned the BJP leadership both at the state and national levels. Speaking to TNM on the condition of anonymity, a BJP leader said that they did not expect the issue to escalate so quickly. "Party leaders were shocked that AIADMK went to the extent of taking such a decision and making it public. We are waiting for further instructions from the high command," he said.

Another BJP functionary told TNM that the party leadership has advised its leaders not to speak on this issue and not to react to the recent developments for the next three days. "The top leadership of the party is busy with the special session of Parliament, and they don’t want the issue to get diverted."

The row began after Annamalai demanded the resignation of Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Minister PK Sekar Babu over the Sanatana Dharma controversy. Speaking at a protest rally in Chennai on September 11, Annamalai recalled an incident that reportedly took place in 1956 at the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, in which former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Dravidian icon CN Annadurai was threatened by freedom fighter Muthuramalinga Thevar for his comments on Hindu gods.

Annamalai claimed that Muthuramalinga Thevar questioned Annadurai for speaking ill of Goddess Umaiyaval at a temple event. "Annadurai went into hiding in Madurai because Muthuramalinga Thevar was angry. Muthuramaligna Thevar further said that if someone is a non-believer and speaks ill about gods, instead of milk abhishekam, there will be blood abhishekam at the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. Annadurai and PT Rajan apologised and ran away," Annamalai added.

This comment by Annamalai did not go down well with the AIADMK, which felt that the BJP chief was constantly targeting its late leaders. The AIADMK had in June adopted a resolution against Annamalai, calling him 'politically immature and inexperienced' after he referred to Jayalalithaa's conviction in the corruption case. The comment against Annadurai was the latest provocation, said AIADMK sources. The AIADMK is an off-shoot of the DMK, which was founded by Annadurai.

The party launched an all-out attack against Annamalai. Former minister and senior AIADMK leaders Sellur Raju, CV Shanmugam, and D Jayakumar criticised the BJP leader for his out-of-turn comments on Annadurai. While Sellur Raju threatened to chop off the tongues of those who speak against Periyar and Annadurai, CV Shanmugam went one step further and termed Annamalai’s padayatra the ‘vasool’ (money collection) yatra.

According to AIADMK sources, party leaders had expressed their unhappiness about Annamalai with the BJP high command. "During his meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, AIADMK general secretary EPS conveyed his thoughts about Annamalai and how his utterances are hurting the alliance at the grass-roots level. EPS also requested BJP leaders to depute a senior leader or a committee of the party to discuss alliance and seat-sharing negotiations," said a source.

Speaking to TNM, a BJP office bearer said Annamalai has been mooting the idea of a third front led by the BJP in Tamil Nadu for the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The national leadership is unwilling to accept it, and hence he has been acting on his own. "The AIADMK wants a senior leader to be deputed for negotiations and seat sharing talks. This could also be one of the reasons for Annamalai’s outburst. There is no clarity on what the national leadership of the party thinks about the recent developments. We are awaiting some clarity," the leader added.

Tamil Manila Congress (TMC) chief GK Vasan too had approached the BJP high command, seeking their intervention to deescalate the tensions between the AIADMK leaders and Annamalai.

Speaking to TNM, Loganathan, a senior journalist and political analyst, said, “What the NDA partners in Tamil Nadu are surprised about is that despite creating issues for the party, he has been getting support from the high command. If Annamalai is sidelined after these developments, he may go to the extent of floating a new outfit; he has been working on that front as well.”

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