The BJP alliance with the AIADMK was on anticipated lines given the latter’s dependence on the Centre for the survival of its government in Tamil Nadu. This alliance was expected to be formalised despite serious reservations from a section within the AIADMK.
Further, given that the DMK has allied itself firmly with the Congress and even taken the lead in projecting Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate, the AIADMK, which has been in turmoil since Jayalalithaa passed away in 2016, had to take the BJP. It does not have the stature that it had under Jayalalithaa who went alone in 2014 and won 37 of the state’s 39 Lok Sabha seats.
Given that actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth has refused to enter the fray in 2019 and has declared that he will not support any side, it is now clear that the battle in Tamil Nadu will be a direct two-way fight between the AIADMK-BJP alliance and the DMK-Congress alliance.
It must be pointed out that the other AIADMK faction, led by TTV Dinakaran who split from the parent party after the demise of Jayalalithaa, is unlikely to close ranks with the ruling faction. The dispute between the two factions is bitter and each would like to use the 2019 Lok sabha elections to establish their credibility as successors to Jayalalithaa.
In this scenario, if the AIADMK vote is split down the middle, the going will be very difficult for the alliance it is part of. The BJP, by itself, has only a pocketed presence in the state, especially in Coimbatore in western and Kanyakumari in southern Tamil Nadu. However, it cannot win any of these seats on its own and needs the alliance vote base to transfer for a victory.
In 2014, the BJP had forged an alliance with the PMK and MDMK and polled just 5.5% votes to win one seat, whereas the AIADMK went on its own to win 37 seats with a 44.3% vote. In fact, without an ally, the BJP has never won a seat in Tamil Nadu and its best performance in the state was four seats in the 1999 general elections when it was in an alliance with the DMK.
In terms of the AIADMK, the BJP has gone into a general election twice before in an alliance with the Dravidian party. In 1998, it won three seats and the alliance included parties like the PMK. The alliance won 30 of the 39 seats in the state. However, the second time the BJP went with the AIADMK was in 2004, and the two-party alliance was routed 39-0 by the DMK-led alliance.