There’s reason for BJP’s southern discomfort: The AIADMK has squandered its massive popularity
In an interview given to this newspaper, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani was not particularly upbeat in his assessment of AIADMK’s electoral prospects this time. It would be fair to say that these impressions were based, not so much on opinion and exit poll readings, as on Advani’s own impressions from Ground Zero.
After all, his Bharat Uday Yatra had cut quite a tidy swathe through these parts in March and he would have had occasion to judge the public mood.
There is good reason for the BJP’s southern discomfort because the Jayalalithaa government has managed, in a short span of three years, to dissipate the formidable reserves of popularity the AIADMK had enjoyed when, in 2001, it was swept into power in Tamil Nadu.
The Indian Express-NDTV-AC Neilsen opinion poll, incidentally, indicated she is one of the least popular chief ministers in the country today. To be fair to the chief minister, some of the reverses that have visited Tamil Nadu and look set to extract a political price have natural origins. There is very little that any government in Fort St George can do about an etiolated river and a once rice rich deltaic region. But Jayalalithaa has added to nature’s and Karnataka’s niggardliness, by the manner in which she handled the Cauvery issue.
Today, when her bete noire, M. Karunanidhi, claims that his record on the sharing of river waters is better, since he was less aggressive with Karnataka, he has a point. A similar impetuousity characterised her wielding of the Pota sword against her political opponents. As if to underline this, the Madras High Court last week declined to quash the directive of the Central Pota Review Committee asking the state government to withdraw criminal proceedings against MDMK leader, Vaiko. If today Vaiko can strut the electoral stage as a latter-day Nelson Mandela, he has Jayalalithaa to thank.
Perhaps it was a combination of chief ministerial arrogance and political happenstance, that saw the destruction of the extremely resilient political coalition Jayalalithaa had cobbled together for the 2001 state election. That AIADMK-led front had comprised, among others, of the Congress, the Tamil Maanila Congress, the PMK, Left parties, and the Indian National League. Today, in an ironical twist of history that Tamil Nadu seems to witness time and again, it is the DMK that has acquired these very same partners and now consequently appears invincible. The question then is whether the very day — May 10 — that saw Jayalalithaa notch a famous victory three years ago, will witness a drastic decline in AIADMK electoral fortunes, or not. Either way, it could have a significant bearing on the NDA’s profile in New Delhi.