Has anyone regretted voting for BJP?

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M. Karunanidhi, the President of the Tamil DMK Party, has been seen in the Indian media in one pose in recent months: smiling and shaking hands.

His appearances are based on the fact that Karunanidhi has set up a considerable campaign alliance. It includes the Tamil patriotic MDMK and PMK, the communist CPI and CPI (M) as well as the Congress Party, which has not worked with the DMK since 1980. (1) The consequence of this cross-camp coalition is that both the BJP ruling in New Delhi and the AIADMK around Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister Jayalalitha are now politically isolated in the Union state.

CPI (M) General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet has confirmed that the communists are joining the DMK camp despite controversies on the content by stating that he has always spoken of "two platforms" instead of "two fronts" against AIADMK and BJP. A premature statement, because in the meantime another coalition has emerged in the shadow of the major parties: The Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), Puthiya Tamizhagam (PT) and Makkal Tamil Desam have united as the "People's Front"; the struggle for the rights of the casteless (Dalits) is a central aspect of their election campaign. The chairmen of the parties around Dr. K Krishnasamy (PT) accused the DMK of having made secret agreements with the BJP and claimed to form the "true secular front". Still, the People's Front is unlikely to play a major role in the upcoming elections.

Karunanidhi, meanwhile, is likely to be quite satisfied with the results of the polls, which promise his "Progressive Front" a clear majority of votes in Tamil Nadu. The question arises, however, as to whether Karunanidhi is a great mediator or not just the beneficiary of general political developments.

The DMK left the ruling NDA at the end of last year after a dispute over the "Prevention of Terrorism Act" (POTA) introduced by the NDA. Chief Minister Jayalalitha used the law at the state level to arrest opposition members (including MDMK chairman Vaiko). The early elections for Lok Sabha, which the BJP pushed through, were also rejected by Karunanidhi.

The PMK, in turn, left the NDA on January 12th. Party leader S. Ramadoss made it clear that the exit was directed less against the coalition partner BJP than against the AIADMK ruling in Tamil Nadu and its "inhumane, anti-peasant and anti-democratic" policy - the PMK has since joined the DMK alliance.

Finally, in its intention to mitigate the announced defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress party had no other option than to come to terms with the DMK in search of a campaign partner in Tamil Nadu.

The AIADMK election manifesto clearly emphasizes that the party plans to form a coalition with the BJP. In addition, party leader Jayalalitha is probably one of the fiercest opponents of the congressional top candidate Sonia Gandhi; the Indian electoral commission recently even sent her a warning for her tirades against Gandhi's Italian origins.

Jayalalitha and the AIADMK, however, appear to have passed the zenith of their popularity; The polls see the party as a potential loser in the upcoming elections, and it has also lost important coalition partners with the CPI, CPI (M) and PMK since 2001. Nevertheless, the BJP makes it clear, at least unofficially, that it is now relying on a cooperation with the AIADMK again: General Secretary L. Ganesan declared that he did not regret the coalition of 1998 (2) and Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani called Jayalalitha to say a happy new year Year to wish.

The rapprochement between the two parties is probably one of the reasons that the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has terminated its alliance with the AIADMK and is now taking the side of the DMK, whether the BJP is valid because of its nationalist Hindutva ideology and its shady role during the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat as the political arm of radical Hindu nationalism. Tamil Nadu's IUML President K. M. Khadhar Mohideen also emphasized the importance of a secular government for the national integrity of India.

Footnotes

(1) The DMK was regularly accused by the Congress Party of supporting the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) separatist organization. When, in 1991, Congress Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was murdered by an alleged LTTE member, the Congress Party ruling New Delhi implemented the "President's Rule" and thus disempowered the DMK in Tamil Nadu.

(2) The AIADMK left the coalition in 1999 because the BJP refused to use the "President's Rule" against the DMK ruling in Tamil Nadu. The BJP coalition lost its majority; the consequence was early elections.