BJP’s Mission South

After forcing two warring factions of AIADMK to unite and getting them to dump convicted Sasikala, the BJP hopes to reap a rich electoral dividend from Tamil Nadu that has been a no-go area so far. But the Mannargudi family of Sasikala is fighting back introducing an element of suspense in the ongoing political drama in Tamil Nadu, writes our Chennai correspondent BHAVANI K Images

The relentless victorious march of Messrs Modi and Shah is now moving Southward – targeting hitherto impregnable areas for the Bharatiya Janata Party, considered a ‘north Indian Hindi & cow belt’ entity.
Cut to circa August 2017, six months after the demise of towering Dravidian party leader J Jayalalithaa, Amit Shah – the 24X7 politician at 11 Ashoka Road – has plotted conquer of Tamil Nadu in the Deccan Plateau that even no Moghul ruler could.
If Mission Tamil Nadu succeeds as it appears now, after forcing two warring AIADMK factions to unite and dump Mannargudi family that controlled the party and influenced the government, the BJP will have a genuine Kashmir-toKanyakumari presence. All this makes the BJP the strongest and ablest political pole in the country, around which national politics revolves, much like the Congress was till Narendra Modi broke onto the national scene and entered the consciousness of the billion-plus people.
“Not even Mrs Indira Gandhi could rule and run a state without a single MLA of her own. The BJP today has a government in Chennai that will do its own bidding without any questions,” said political commentator Prof Ramu Manivannan of Madras University.
It is not for nothing that principal opposition party in Tamil Nadu, DMK and its working president MK Stalin, called it a “drama, scripted, directed by BJP government at the Centre.”

It Is not for nothIng that DMK anD Its worKIng presIDent MK stalIn, calleD It a “DraMa, scrIpteD, DIrecteD by bJp governMent at the centre.”

A master communicator and astute politician, aided by strategist in Amit Shah, Modi does not flinch even a wee bit when it comes to taking tough political decisions. He is not scared of dumping political niceties either – whether breaking up a regional Bihar alliance to snatch the state government after losing in assembly polls or cobbling up numbers to retain own Goa government, the decisions of the Modi-Shah duo prove the maxim – everything is fair in love and war, and politics.
For sure, it is a war against the Congress and anyone who dares to associate with the Congress. And after Bihar and Gujarat, the country’s fearful political duo had turned its attention to Tamil Nadu, where the BJP has not won in assembly elections ever.
The death of Jayalalithaa in December last year created a huge political vacuum that the BJP sought to fill in. And since it does not have a presence to speak of, it moved in quickly to “acquire” the AIADMK which did not have a secondrung leadership ready to take over, or a ‘designated’ successor to Amma as Jayalalithaa was popularly known.
Scaring the allegedly corrupt politicians in Tamil Nadu was pretty simple – a series of raids by CBI, IT and ED against a person as high as chief secretary of Tamil Nadu, state health minister Vjayabhaskar, and an assortment of businessmen – the message went home. The first person to be co-opted was O Panneerselvam who was sworn in as the chief minister within hours of the announcement of death of Jayalalithaa.
OPS too was gaining popularity among the people with his visible hard work and attempts to fulfil Amma’s policies and programmes. Besides, he had the ear of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government was only too eager to accept Tamil Nadu’s wishes on many issues. It was at this juncture that VK Sasikala, who got herself appointed as the party’s general secretary (interim), made plans to replace OPS and become the chief minister herself.
After being forced out of chief ministership, OPS began his revolt with prayers to Amma at her memorial on February 7. And six months later, it was at this very Amma memorial that OPS smoked the peace pipe with chief minister Edapaddi Palanisami, who was appointed as CM by Sasikala herself. He too was soon made to sign up on the BJP team, so to speak. Since then, the BJP was goading the two warring factions of OPS and EPS to merge as one unit, as it wanted to tie up with AIADMK for the 2019 general elections to the Lok Sabha.
To cement this arrangement, the BJP also is willing to take AIADMK on board into the ruling NDA dispensation at the Centre. Two or three central ministerial berths are on the offer for a united AIADMK.
For the AIADMK, which has nearly four years term to complete in Tamil Nadu, the offer was too good to resist.

Jayalalitha; Amit Shah has controlled the drama from behind the scene; The then undivided AIADMK at Jayalalitha’s memorial; Sasikala’s stint in jail has handicapped her supporters; Stalin takes the centre stage as Karunanidhi grows old.

But even then, there were problems galore that threatened to derail the merger process. OPS wanted the ouster of Sasikala as the main demand for merger, besides a probe into the death of Jayalalithaa. When OPS stiffened his position of not leaving his house for the merger meeting, RSS ideologue and Tughlak editor S Gurumurthy ironed out the differences and got the merger going.
Almost all the local BJP leaders in Tamil Nadu were happy at the merger and hoped that it would now be able to concentrate on development of Tamil Nadu. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised all help to Tamil Nadu for its economic growth, state BJP leaders said, “The government in TN will last its full term and the revolt would dissipate.”
“EPS and OPS will be able to deal with Mannargudi family,” said senior TN BJP leader H Raja. He is the leader who is chosen for translating all speeches made by important BJP leaders into Tamil on their visits to Tamil Nadu, from Atal Behari Vajpayee to LK Advani to now Modi.
“The power of Mannargudi family will be curtailed and people will see to it that Sasikala is gone,” said the BJP leader. “Sasikala is one of the most hated politicians in Tamil Nadu and people had come out spontaneously against her and in support of Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar,” Raja said. Unfortunately for Sasikala, two things happened that she may not have accounted for. Firstly, EPS began distancing self from her and her nephew TTV Dinakaran as soon as he was sworn in as chief minister.
Sasikala’s conviction in the corruption case only curbed her power to some extent, but still she had her nephew to have control over some MLAs and party machinery. This is very evident as the Mannargudi family launched its fight back, ‘withdrawing support of 19 MLAs to EPS government, turning it into a minority government’. And then promptly took all of them to a resort in Congress-ruled Puducherry for safe keeping. Their grouse, voiced by senior MLA P Vetrivel is “how can EPS, appointed by Sasikala, go and invite a traitor (OPS) who split the party, got two leaves symbol frozen and give him government post again.” Although for the present, they are silent over BJP and Modi’s role in all this, but are surely demanding answers from chief minister Palanisami.

the DInaKaran caMp, gettIng Its orDers froM sasIKala, wants a new cM anD asKeD the governor to start the process to change the chIef MInIster

The Dinakaran camp, getting its orders from Sasikala in jail, wants a new chief minister and asked the governor to start constitutional process to change the chief minister as “19 MLAs lost confidence in chief minister”. DMK working president MK Stalin has sought an immediate floor test as the government has lost majority as per the numbers in the assembly.
If a floor test is held, the EPS government is gone for sure. But this is the threat being held out by the Mannargudi family with its 19 MLAs in its kitty. “This number will only go up as there are at least 8 more MLAs ready to ditch the government,” said Sasikala’s brother V Divakaran.
For the present, as the state BJP leaders are gloating that the developments give the BJP a fair chance to grow in Tamil Nadu. H Raja said that among the people there was a strong yearning for change and Modi is very popular and with a friendly government in Tamil Nadu the party can only grow further.
But how long this government will last depends on the floor test, either one directed by the governor or through a no-confidence motion that the DMK threatens to move.
Keep watching this space as “the picture of TN political thriller, abhi baaki hai”.