TamilNadu has over the last 60 years been a bellweather state for those who follow Indian politics – what happens in TamilNadu in year t, usually plays out in the rest of the country t+20 years later. Hence ever since the demise of the two titans of Tamil politics, Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi, political pundits across India have given us running commentary as we watch the high stakes political chess game play out in TamilNadu. In this piece, Seshadri Chari contends that the BJP is making all the right moves and in so doing could become only the second north Indian party, after the Congress in the immediate decades following Independence, to build a credible franchise in one of India’s most prosperous states: “…with Tamil Nadu assembly election scheduled for April-May 2021, the state’s political formulations are already in high-voltage mode…. Khushbu Sundar has already quit the Congress and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. And now, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s M.K. Alagiri is also poised to float his own party…Alagiri, who also has an offer from the BJP to join the party as he contemplates floating his own, had incidentally denied all speculations of quitting the DMK in 2014. Party patriarch Karunanidhi had anointed M.K. Stalin as his successor while Stalin’s sister Kanimozhi latched on to his bandwagon. Alagiri was left out with no party position. In what looks like a repeat of Maharashtra situation vis-à-vis the Thackeray clan sibling war, Alagiri’s quitting will cause a vertical split in the DMK much to the benefit of the AIADMK-BJP combine.
Chari then tells us about a fascinating new player in Tamil politics (“new” to those outside the state at least): “…the real dark horse is T.T.V. Dinakaran, the moving spirit behind the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). Incidentally, this is the only party in Tamil Nadu that does not have ‘Dravida’ in its name. This, by itself, is a huge, transformative political signal in the state. Heading a splinter group of the AIADMK formed after Jayalalithaa’s death by her friend and fidus Achates V.K. Sasikala, Dinakaran could play an important role in the coming days. A person with a spiritual bent of mind, an ardent cow worshipper (said to have never missed his daily pre-dawn gau puja), Dinakaran is also reported to have denounced the idea of north-south divide and the Aryan-Dravida theory. If handled properly, TTV, as he is popularly known among his followers, could tilt the political balance in the BJP’s favour.
There is likely to be much ideological affinity between the BJP and the AMMK. Dinakaran’s aunt Sasikala, who is serving a four-year jail term after being convicted in a disproportionate assets case, has paid the Rs 10 crore fine slapped on her by the trial court and later upheld by the Supreme Court. She could be out of jail by the year-end or early 2021, right on time to join the unfolding political drama in Tamil Nadu.”
And finally Chari adds some stardust to this heady mix of political intrigue – Amit Shah is likely to meet Tamil superstar Rajnikanth next week “….who has successfully kept every party guessing all along. He is unlikely to float a new party, or join an existing one. But his leanings are certainly towards the BJP and that itself is great news for the party, which seems to have made inroads lately…”
For the two Dravidian parties who have ruled the roost in TamilNadu for the past 40 years, the BJP’s rise poses a tricky challenge – do they ally to deny the BJP political space? Or do they – or their splinter groups – ally with the BJP and try to ride to power on the back of the BJP’s financial & political muscle? Elections like the forthcoming one in TamilNadu and the recent one in Bihar show why India is the most interesting country in the world to live in.

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