While trying to cobble together a mega alliance whose efficacy is debatable, the ruling AIADMK has actually managed a smart deal to ensure its survival over the remaining two-year term. The party has got a commitment from the PMK and the BJP to support it in the soon-to-be-held crucial by-polls for 21 assembly seats. A similar agreement would bind other potential allies including the DMDK as well.
These 21 seats fell vacant in one go, after the Tamil Nadu Speaker disqualified AIADMK lawmakers supporting Sasikala and her nephew Dhinakaran under the anti-defection law for writing to the Governor seeking replacement of Chief Minister E Palaniswami.
The ruling AIADMK with a present tally of 114 will have to win at least four of these seats to get a simple majority of 118. If it runs short, the government could collapse. Reclaiming these seats may not be easy as lots have changed since the 2016 elections fought and won under the late J Jayalalithaa.
The party suffered a split after the ouster of Sasikala and TTV Dhinkaran. To make things worse, Mr Dhinkaran even managed to win the by-poll in Jayalalithaa's RK Nagar constituency. The AIADMK also witnessed an ugly tussle for power between Mr Palaniswami and O Pannerselvam.
It is with this game plan, the ruling AIADMK got its rivals-turned-allies commit their support for by-elections. A senior leader told NDTV, a "hundred per cent, There is no doubt out it. We want to safeguard our government first".
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the AIADMK won 37 of the 39 seats with a vote share of 44.3 per cent. The BJP alliance had won only 2 seats with a vote share of 18.5 per cent.
While it is debatable if the PMK and the DMDK have kept their votes intact over the last five years to help AIADMK sweep Lok Sabha polls. The AIADMK hopes even their dwindled votes would give it a winning edge in the PMK strongholds in the crucial assembly by-polls to win a majority in the assembly.
TTV Dhinakaran's AMMK candidates too, would be in fray to win these constituencies back. A senior minister told NDTV: "PMK has its votebank intact in these areas. Why do you think the DMK too wooed them?"
With BJP too in the alliance, "the AIADMK government will be protected in more than one way" a leader summarised with a chuckle.
The BJP's alliance with the AIADMK could well be a gamble but the AIADMK's strategy, the party says, would be a sure winner.