In Tamil Nadu, BJP Gets "Field Nirmala Sitharaman" Dare From AIADMK Leader

Ms Sitharaman and Mr Jaishankar are currently Rajya Sabha MPs from Karnataka and Gujarat, and there is no indication they will be fielded in this Lok Sabha election.

In Tamil Nadu, BJP Gets 'Field Nirmala Sitharaman' Dare From AIADMK Leader

PM Modi was in Tamil Nadu this week to drum up support for the BJP before the Lok Sabha election.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, like its rivals the INDIA bloc, is racing to conclude seat-share deals with allies in the southern state of Tamil Nadu - having this week wrapped accords in Assam, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh - ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Unlike the opposition grouping, however, the BJP has run into rather significant roadblocks in a state where it has traditionally struggled - one seat in four earlier Lok Sabha polls - and has now been thrown a challenge by its disgruntled former ally - the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Speaking at a party event Thursday, senior AIADMK leader KP Munusamy dared the BJP to field Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar - whose Tamil roots are often flagged by the party - "if they indeed believe their support has grown in the state".

"Can BJP field union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishankar from any constituency in Tamil Nadu for upcoming general election... if they indeed believe their support has grown?" he asked.

Ms Sitharaman and Mr Jaishankar are currently Rajya Sabha MPs from Karnataka and Gujarat, and there is no indication they will be fielded in this Lok Sabha election. A first list of over 100 names is expected from the BJP later today, which could include Mr Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

Mr Munusamy's fiery challenge underlines the two parties' (current) bitter relationship.

The AIADMK snapped ties with the BJP in September last year; the trigger was critical comments by the BJP's state unit boss, K Annamalai, about late former Chief Minister CN Annadurai. Mr Annadurai was Tamil Nadu's first Chief Minister, and also AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran's mentor.

A defiant Mr Annamalai refused to apologise and, in not doing so, was backed by the BJP, leading to talk his attacks on the AIADMK were a calculated ploy to force the regional party to break ties.

READ | "Happiest Moment": AIADMK Snaps BJP Alliance, Exits NDA

Since then the BJP has been without a major alliance partner in the state, in which it has a vote-share of less than three per cent. The party has sealed only a deal with the Tamil Manila Congress. Sources told NDTV the BJP has reached out to the AIADMK, but these efforts have been snubbed, for now.

There is also talk of a deal with the Pattali Makkal Katchi of S Ramadoss, and speculation senior political figures, like O Panneerselvam, may join. That, though, will be only in an individual capacity.

The party, it appears, has placed its hopes of cracking Tamil Nadu on Mr Annamalai's shoulders.

There is some good news, though, after 15 former MLAs and an ex-MP joined the BJP in Delhi this week, in the presence of union ministers Rajeev Chandrasekhar and L Murugan, and Mr Annamalai.

READ | 15 Former Legislators, Ex MP From Tamil Nadu Join BJP In Delhi

Most of the 16 new faces were from the AIADMK.

Mr Munusamy's challenge also comes after the Prime Minister's visit to the state, where the political landscape is dominated, entirely, by the AIADMK and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

READ | PM's South Challenge As BJP Grapples Sans Allies In Tamil Nadu

Within the AIADMK, many had celebrated the break-up with the BJP, pointing out the Tamil party had lost - overwhelmingly - elections contested together. In the 2021 state election the AIADMK won 75 seats - down from 136 in 2016 - and it lost power. In the 2019 general election it was routed.

The AIADMK-BJP alliance won just a single seat, while rivals DMK-Congress claimed 38 of 39.

How Is DMK Faring?

The ruling DMK, which is part of the Congress-led INDIA bloc, is in a happier place, having closed deals with smaller outfits Indian Union Muslim League and Kongu Desa Makkal Katchi.

READ | MK Stalin's DMK Begins Seat-Sharing Talks With Allies

The big discussion will be with the Congress, which won nine of 10 seats it fought last time in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. There is also buzz actor Kamal Hassan's Makkal Needhi Maiam may join.

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