BJP in Tamil Nadu – A Real Beginning?

Author: @Simpl_eThoughts is a friend and a keen political observer. Views expressed here are personal.


BJP’s trysts with the 2 Dravidian parties began with an alliance with ADMK along with Ramadoss’s PMK and Vaiko’s MDMK in 1998, when the NDA won 30 out of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu. However, J Jayalalitha pulled the rug from under NDA in 1999, only after 13 months; an ill-advised move brokered by Dr Subramanian Swamy – a move brokered with the sole motive of bringing down BJP government (rumours that Swamy was unhappy being denied Finance Ministry) and installing the Congress backed government at all costs. A move which resulted in elections in 1999, where ADMK was replaced by DMK in NDA, PMK and MDMK remained as part of NDA. NDA, this time won 26 out of the 39 seats. DMK proved a lot more reliable when it came to alliance with the party running the central government, the only consistency that they have shown over years – to be part of any alliance in the Union government.

However, with the sudden communal colour given to BJP in 2004 post the Gujarat riots, and DMK reading the ground situation really well allied with Congress in 2004. BJP allied with ADMK again in 2004, after strong pro-Hindu form shown by J Jayalalitha during her tenure post 2001 in the state. The anti-incumbency against ADMK was too strong to handle for the NDA alliance, which lost all the 39 seats to DMK-Congress alliance in 2004. Post this, BJP has pretty much been alone and non-descript in the southern state.

There were strong parleys to form a pre-poll alliance between BJP and ADMK in 2014, with political analyst Cho Ramaswamy having gone all in to get this deal done. However, J Jayalalitha’s PM ambitions proved a deal breaker. BJP having left out by the 2 Dravidian parties stitched together a 3rd front. The significant ground work by the cadres, the Modi effect, and the stitching up of the 3rd front by BJP has given it a fighting chance in 2014 to better its fortunes.

2014 Elections

Come 16th May, Tamil Nadu may very well spring a stunning surprise to all. Most analysts are reserving their analysis of raw data from the state post polling on 24th April; because it is too stunning to be believed. Regardless of this data, from pre-poll expectations, the NDA could be fairly expected to win about 4-6 seats. (Politicalbaaba predicts 8 seats based on information from the ground.)

This by itself would be significant for the sole reason that, since Congress lost the state almost 4 decades back, there has never been a 3rd force in the state’s electoral politics. It is nothing but a big effort that BJP was able to put up this front which even the Congress was not able to do.

This could not have been possible without the intervention of fate in the form of a blunder by ADMK supremo J Jayalalitha. In hindsight, an ADMK-BJP pre-poll alliance would have given a white wash in favour of the alliance. But, does it really come out well for the BJP in return?

  1. BJP would have had to play not just second fiddle but literally sub-servient to the main alliance partner in the state. BJP at the maximum would not have contested more than the 8 seats (most optimistic scenario) that it does now, and ADMK in all probability would have won close to 30 seats, not just on ADMK’s core votes but on BJP’s significantly increased vote share from last time.
  2. BJP could not have fought the election on the Modi plank in the state, but rather tagged along Amma’s line
  3. A demoralized cadre who are not seeing the fruits of their significant labour and sacrifices (including lives)
  4. ADMK commands significant positions in the cabinet

On the flip side,

  1. BJP’s state unit has shown fair maturity in playing the lead role in stitching up the alliance; taking few but strong seats and giving a significant portion of pie to larger local parties
  2. It by no means is a small task to bring a DMDK and a PMK together in an alliance
  3. In return, the election in TN too is fought on Modi’s development plank; thereby politically integrating TN with BJP’s broader national agenda. A political phenomenon different from the past wherein TN politically was always seen in isolation
  4. This gives the BJP a far-fetched but real chance to make some inroads in the state in the long run
  5. While managing the few seats, NDA would check dominance of ADMK by limiting their seats to marginally higher than DMK’s (thanks to MK Stalin’s highly charged and effective campaign); thereby giving NDA a greater bargaining power by playing the 2 Dravidian parties

In hindsight, the situation bodes very well for BJP in TN. How they use this opportunity to be larger force in TN assembly elections in 2016 depends upon how they tackle the few most important issues in TN.

  1. The rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils and the implementation of the 13th amendment in Sri Lanka – If at all, there is one party which has a clear policy view on Sri Lanka and a strong will to settle the Tamils issue; it is the BJP. This was exhibited when Yashwant Sinha laid out his party’s views and possible interventions that India has to take in Sri Lanka, in his speech in the Parliament. The Congress and the Dravidian parties have only played this issue for electoral gains.
  2. The issue of livelihood of fishermen in the long coast of TN – BJP might do well to engage various like-minded activists like Joe d’cruz, RSS’ sister organizations in coastal TN apart from engaging Sri Lanka at the diplomatic level to find solutions to the daily problems of the fishermen. This will mean bringing together the dozen fishing castes (significant vote base) under one umbrella.
  3. Reinvigorate the fading but rich Shaivite tradition of the state, which will help create a strong regional identity for BJP as not just an upper caste party, and one that is different from the atheist Dravidian parties.
  4. A strong focus at centre for studying of classical languages, mainly Tamil and Sanskrit – not just a notional university, but one that would be functional enough to stitch back the lost connect of the masses with the Vedic and the Sangam era

While, these issues might by themselves would take long to resolve, any indication of positive movement in these issues would go a long way in creating goodwill for BJP not just with the direct beneficiaries, but with the larger educated middle class.



  1. A good analysis on Tamilnadu ground status.

    As a TN resident, I wish to add few points to these explained in this article.

    BJPs growth in the state started in 1992 and peaked in 1998 during the Coimbatore bomb blast.

    Still the growth is existing in this state because of the repeated Dravidian rule and mis-governance in the last four decades.

    BJP could become a formidable forces if it concentrates on its own without any allies.

    During this 2014 election the parties aligned with BJP for different reasons.

    1. PMK which is constantly changing the camps on every election, joined with BJP because of no Dravidian party is ready to accommodate it.
    2. DMDK also joined with BJP to oppose ADMK because of its failed alliance in the last state election. Also it smells that Cong + DMK will lose the elections because of the scams.
    3. MDMK is really a good decent partner where BJP can go with it as an natural ally

    Along with these parties BJP should come out exposing its views on the burning issues in TN.

    1. Cauvery issue is the hottest one in the list. Where BJP is still not cleared its stand.
    During the last five years when BJP was ruling the Karnataka, it should have come out with a strong mandate which is good/acceptable by all.
    Both the state BJP heads are making political comments and acting to keep their future in mind and fueling the fire.
    Either Modi or the senior leaders didn’t proposed anything on this.

    2. The Mullai – Periyar issue. Instead of analyzing the issue in the political background, the political parties should come out with a proposal which is good for the people.
    BJP should make it a high priority agenda and mediate between the states where Cong/Communists/Dravidian parties failed to do so in the past.

    3. BJP should bring the common agenda all around the state to diversify the growth among the state.
    Coimbatore which is strongly polarized towards BJP and a strong hold of the party from 1998 is still not getting the basic infrastructure needed.
    ADMK never contested in this constituency. One of the main reason is that ADMK thinks that the hardworking and self motivated people of Coimbatore will not be polarized by the freebies.
    BJP won twice in this constituency and nothing changed because of that.
    The city grown by its own with the strong entrepreneurs and businessmen. Me and my fellow Coimbatoreans are still begging the political parties to show little signs of their support.


    Let’s hope at least by this 2014 – Modi led government will bring in a change in the state which is not only good for its citizens but also to the party where it can be rewarded in the future.


    1. Thanks Vivek for the additional points that were missed in the article. Totally agree with the points, specially solving Cauvery water dispute. Probably I feel Modi’s intended approach of CMs being equal partners in national issues could help resolve inter state issues if BJP comes to power. Not an easy task, but hope things do get better.


  2. I totally agree with the analysis…BJP will bag 8 to 10 seats in Tamil Nadu for sure.. Thank You politicalbaaba for the constant updates..I also thank the commentators for the additional points…


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