AIADMK boss E Palaniswami is a former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister (File).
Tamil Nadu's AIADMK has snapped ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance - just months before the national election - amid a row over comments by the latter party's state boss, K Annamalai. The AIADMK had accused the BJP leader of deliberately defaming its present and past leaders.
The break-up was announced by AIADMK Deputy General Secretary KP Munusamy after a resolution was passed unanimously at a meeting of MPs, MLAs and district heads in Chennai. "AIADMK is breaking all ties with BJP and NDA from today. State leadership of BJP has been making unnecessary remarks about our former leaders for the past year."
"The AIADMK will fight the 2024 election with its allies," Mr Munusamy also said.
AIAMK spokesperson Sasirekha said, "... based on members' opinion we are taking this resolution. This is the happiest moment (for us). We are very happy to face the upcoming elections (on our own), whether Parliamentary or Assembly."
Party workers burst firecrackers and distributed sweets to celebrate. Venu, one of those celebrating, told NDTV, " This is a great decision. Our workers welcome this." G Venkatesh said, "We didn't get minorities votes because of BJP alliance. Now we will win all 39 seats (in next year's Lok Sabha election)."
Mr Annamalai - who is on a padyatra, or foot march, in Coimbatore, said, "Our national leadership will respond."
Earlier he had refused to back down. He argued that what he had said was part of history and needed to be understood in the context of the row over Tamil Nadu minister Udhayanidhi Stalin's remark on Sanatan Dharm.
READ | Case Against BJP Leader For Remarks Against MK Stalin, Son Udhayanidhi
At a meeting in Delhi on Saturday - a last-gasp effort to revive strained ties - the south Indian party stood firm on its demand - that Mr Annamalai either apologise for remarks on the late former Chief Minister CN Annadurai, or be replaced with a "non-controversial leader". Mr Annadurai was the mentor of AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran.
A senior AIADMK leader at that meeting said discussions were "cordial", but remarks by the BJP's M Chakravarthy painted a different picture. "... leadership does not relish idea of shifting Annamalai as he has been (instrumental in) reviving the party (in Tamil Nadu)... he only made a remark alluding to Annadurai during Sanatan Dharma row."
READ |AIADMK Delegation Meet BJP Leaders In Delhi Over Rift In Ties In Tamil Nadu
The alliance was on the brink last week after the former party's D Jayakumar told reporters "we will decide on alliance before the election". "Annamalai is unfit to be BJP's state president. He speaks ill of late leaders only to project himself," he said.
READ |AIADMK Says No Alliance With BJP Now, Will Decide On Tie-Up Before Polls
The BJP leader had previously also been critical of the late former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who remains an iconic, almost revered, figure within the AIADMK. At the time, the southern party had demanded the state BJP chief be reined in; Mr Annamalai frequently needles both his party's ally (the only one in the state) and their joint rival, the DMK.
His comments have led to speculation the BJP is trying to engineer space for itself in Tamil Nadu - a state in which it has failed, so far, to make any electoral headway - before next year's election.
In March, he even spoke out against allying with the AIADMK, leaving senior leaders fuming.
"Annamalai doesn't desire alliance with AIADMK although BJP workers want it. Should we tolerate criticism of our leaders? Why should we carry you? BJP can't set foot here..." Jayakumar declared.
The BJP has had friendly ties with the AIADMK but has usually been kept at arm's length; Jayalalithaa never actually formed a formal alliance with them when she was in power because she believed it could not fit into the political landscape of the state, which is dominated by Dravidian ideologies.
The AIADMK has lost - overwhelmingly - all elections in which it allied with the BJP, including the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2021 Assembly polls, prompting it to look on the BJP as a liability ahead of the 2024 election. In 2021 the AIADMK won just 75 seats - down from 136 five years earlier - and was ousted from power by the DMK-Congress combine. In the last national election the AIADMK was similarly routed - going from 37 seats to just one - while the DMK went from 0 to 39.