No-confidence motion: AIADMK support for NDA govt raises questions if party has prostrated before BJP

Two important developments took place in the last three days that put the politics of Tamil Nadu in a nutshell. On Friday, much to everyone's surprise, the AIADMK instead of abstaining from the vote in the no-confidence motion, put their weight behind the NDA government by voting for it. And on Sunday, at the BJP women wing conference in Madurai, Tamil Nadu unit president Tamilisai Sounderarajan said that after the demise of Jayalalithaa who was referred to as 'Amma' by her followers, the new 'Amma' not just for Tamil Nadu but for the entire country, is Narendra Modi.

Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami. PTI

Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami. PTI

Which begs the question -- Did the AIADMK crawl when they were asked to bend? And was Sounderarajan's claim meant to underline that Modi is the new 'Amma' and high command for the AIADMK.

There are differing versions on who took the call to ensure the 37 AIADMK MPs voted for the government on the no-confidence motion. While the BJP denies any leader reached out to the AIADMK leadership to ask for its support, a section of the ruling party in Tamil Nadu claims calls were made to its top two from the BJP leadership.

This is how it unfolded. Two days before D-day on Friday, Edappadi Palaniswami ruled out the possibility of supporting the no-confidence motion moved by the Telugu Desam Party. The AIADMK leadership had two reasons why it decided not to stand with the non-NDA group. On the face of it, it must be said the reasons had merit.

One, the TDP had moved the motion for its state's interest and demand for Special Category Status (SCS). The AIADMK has always maintained that it could see a flight of capital to Andhra Pradesh if the bifurcated state is accorded special status. EPS also pointed that when AIADMK MPs were agitating over Cauvery inside Parliament, no other political party supported it and therefore he saw no reason to stand by Andhra over SCS.

Two, the motion was also being supported by the Congress and the DMK, even though the latter has no MPs in the Lok Sabha. That made it easier for the AIADMK to cry off, arguing it could not be seen on the same side as its arch political rival.

Palaniswami's rhetoric led most, including his MPs, to believe the AIADMK would abstain or walk out and not participate in the voting process. That would have put it in the league of the TRS and BJP who decided to stay neutral in the battle between the BJP and the Congress.

That perhaps would have been apt given that Tamil Nadu has been given short shrift over several issues, including the Cauvery where the BJP government delayed forming the Cauvery Management Authority till the Karnataka elections were done and dusted. This was so that the BJP's political constituency did not feel the party was acting against the interests of Karnataka.

Whether it be over NEET or funds under the 14th Finance Commission, Tamil Nadu has reason to be bitter. In fact, AIADMK's two MPs — P Venugopal and Jayavardhan Jayakumar — alluded to Tamil Nadu's feeling that it is getting stepmotherly treatment from the Centre during the debate. Yet the AIADMK decided to cast its lot with the government.

The no-trust vote was an opportunity for the EPS regime to show the BJP does not do backseat driving. Which is why the impression has gained ground that the income tax raids tilted the scales. The raids last week on a highway contractor, perceived to be close to EPS, leads one to suspect that the CM decided to walk the extra mile to keep New Delhi in good humour.

Though deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, M Thambidurai indulged in some verbal fireworks after the raids saying "Tamil Nadu will always remain a state of Dravidian parties", the EPS-OPS combine decided to be safe rather than sorry. More so with the judgment in the 18 MLAs disqualification case slated to come in August. If the Speaker's decision is quashed, it will push the government into a minority and the ball will be in the Centre's court. The vote is the AIADMK's way of cosying up to the BJP.

But not everyone was in favour of being openly seen in the BJP camp. At least half a dozen MPs were vehement in their opposition to the proposal, arguing it will be politically suicidal. It was also pointed out that Jayalalithaa would never have done this. Realising the conflict within the parliamentary group, a whip was then issued to ensure all 37 MPs did as the leadership desired.

The AIADMK decision has given a handle to the DMK to criticise it for its servility. Calling the AIADMK a "benaami of the BJP", MK Stalin criticised the "quid pro quo arrangement between the AIADMK and BJP", adding the I-T raids achieved their objective.

The question is how will the BJP and the new 'Amma' return this favour. Not that the party needed the numbers but it added more heft to Modi's numerical triumph. If the agencies go a bit soft on the investigations, the decision would have served a limited selfish political purpose. The list of raids — on Health minister Vijaybasker and former chief secretary Rammohan Rao being the most prominent examples — where there has been no visible follow-up action, tell their own story.


Updated Date: Jul 23, 2018 11:14 AM

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