BJP’s ambitions upset electoral calculations of AINRC, AIADMK

Party targeting to contest in 10 to 12 seats and is bargaining for the CM’s post

An electorally ambitious BJP has upset the political calculations of the All India N.R. Congress (AINRC) and AIADMK in Puducherry in the coming Assembly elections.

The national party, which had joined the AINRC-AIADMK alliance as a “junior partner” during the Nellithope Assembly bypoll in 2016, has since spread its political net wider. BJP national president J.P. Nadda and Puducherry unit chief V. Saminathan, who is also a nominated legislator, have in recent days indicated their desire to be a dominant player or at least being treated an equal partner in the alliance. Mr. Saminathan even went to the extent of projecting recently inducted former Minister A. Namassivayam [who quit the Congress] as a possible Chief Ministerial candidate.

In 2011, the AINRC had contested in 20 seats leaving 10 for the AIADMK, which shared a seat with the CPI. The alliance won in 20 constituencies and the AINRC, with 15 seats, had formed the government with the support of an Independent. Sources in the AINRC and AIADMK told The Hindu that they have received enough indications of the BJP’s desire to play a larger role in the alliance.

“They [BJP] have set a target of contesting a minimum of 10 to 12 seats and are bargaining even for the Chief Minister’s post. Talks are on, but the final decision will be taken by our leader and former Chief Minister Rangasamy. The Prime Minister and our leader share mutual respect but that will not lead to any climb down with regard to our position on seat sharing,” a top AINRC functionary said.

Mr. Rangasamy, while addressing cadres during the foundation day on Sunday, urged them to strive hard to bring the party back to power. He also warned the workers to beware about forces from “within and outside” trying to foment trouble.

An AIADMK functionary pointed out that in terms of cadre strength and vote share the party was way ahead of the national party.

“In fact, we are facing the electorate with four sitting legislators and not without any elected representatives like the BJP. Anyway, our alliance is decided by the party leadership in Tamil Nadu. We have already apprised the leadership about our concerns,” an AIADMK legislator said.

The BJP leadership was of the view that it was a national party and the ground situation had changed in the last five years.

“With the Supreme Court upholding the rights of the Centre to nominate three legislators [belonging to BJP], we are going to the Assembly already with the strength of three members. Besides, we have worked hard for the last five years in strengthening the party at the booth level. We would like to play a dominant or at least as an equal partner in the alliance,” a senior BJP leader told The Hindu.

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