Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s presence at the swearing-in of Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad, and her party’s relentless campaign to secure all the Parliament seats in the state and Pondicherry together are a certain giveaway of two facts: one, she would most likely support Modi as PM; and two, she wants to play the kingmaker.
The mutual regard that Modi and Jaya have for each other appears to be growing stronger. In fact, he is the only ally that Jaya has maintained in the recent past. He had flown down for her swearing-in last year and she has now returned the favour. Outside his home-turf, Chennai was one of the few places that Modi has spoken in public; and it was for a mutual friend Cho Ramaswamy. Reportedly, they exchange notes on administration and ideas as well.
Just before she flew down to Ahmedabad, her supporters in Chennai had made yet another call for Jaya as the PM of India. This has been a refrain of her party, particularly her senior leaders, ever since she came to power last year.
Is the call seriously for her to the PM? Wouldn’t it put her in direct conflict with Modi?
It doesn’t seem so. What the party and Jayalalithaa would probably want is a kingmaker role - the ability to call the shots on who forms the next government in Delhi and who gets to head it. The political dividends of such a role would be immense even if it is for a friend like Modi.
Jaya herself has made her intention pretty clear on several occasions during the last two years that she would like to decide things in Delhi.
The latest was on Monday when she reportedly asked her cadres to work hard to get all the 40 parliament seats in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry (39 in TN and one in Pondicherry) in the next elections. As soon as she came to power with a massive mandate, she had told her party workers that she would want to sweep the parliament elections as well. She had told them that it would be the best gift they could give her.
On Monday, speaking on the 25th death anniversary of AIADMK founder and former chief minister MG Ramachandran, party organising secretary PH Pandian, reiterated the message. He called on the party workers to work hard, get all the seats, and pave the way for Jaya to be the next prime minister.
Finance minister O Panneerselvam administered a pledge asking the cadres to commit that they would ensure that Jaya heads the next government. He had made a similar call in September, along with four other state ministers, at a consultative meeting of the party in Madurai.
Although Jaya has never expressed any interest to be the prime minister of India, she hasn’t hidden her desire in having a controlling stake. The calls for Jaya-as-PM by her supporters are therefore not necessarily the calls for her as the prime minister, but as the prime mover behind the next government.
Since she assumed office, her focus on the parliament elections has been unwavering. The AIADMK workers were told to be prepared for elections any time, which was repeated in the executive committee meeting in August as well. In the general council meeting of the party in December 2011, her calls were focussed on the parliament elections yet again.
She was categorical that the AIADMK would be part of the next government.
Since then, the party has been told to be poll-ready, whether it happens now or later. A special committee comprising senior ministers has been formed to travel across the state and take appropriate steps so that the party gets a headstart.
Given the mutual admiration that Jaya and Modi share for each other, it is more or less given that Jaya is most likely to throw her weight behind Modi. If she has the numbers, Modi will be at a tremendous advantage in negotiating with his party and allies.
If all goes well as planned, the Modi-Jaya combo will be a formidable political force that even the BJP cannot resist. But given the worsening power crisis in the state and emerging political realignments, things may not be as easy as one would have thought earlier.