Right before Tamil Nadu Assembly elections scheduled for 6 April, a storm is gathering between the AIADMK and its ally the BJP, over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Reason, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has promised in its election manifesto that it will ask the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to withdraw the controversial CAA.
While the AIADMK’s election promise is meant to woo minority voters who are believed to be supporting the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Congress alliance, the BJP national leadership is angry with AIADMK for resurrecting the CAA debate in the state, The Quint has gathered.
'Political Alliance, not Ideological' - AIADMK
Meanwhile, the AIADMK has been wanting to distance itself from the BJP ever since it realised that the state is witnessing an anti-BJP surge. An ABP-C-Voter survey has predicted a win for DMK-Congress alliance in the state.
Reiterating AIADMK leader and caretaker Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy’s take on his party’s alliance with the BJP, spokesperson of AIADMK RM Babu Murugavel told The Quint, “We are ideologically different from the BJP. We are a Dravidian party”.
Murugavel further explained, “We believe that there can be one alliance in the Centre and a different alliance in the state. State’s matters are within our purview alone”.
In other words, AIADMK, which had supported the CAA in Parliament, has made an about-turn in the state. Murugavel said, “AIADMK supported the CAA at first because we knew it denied citizenship only to foreign Muslims. Now, Indian Muslims think that CAA targets them also. We cannot ignore their sentiment”.
Muslims in Tamil Nadu should not think that AIADMK supports the BJP ideologically, the AIADMK spokesperson maintained. “We are only in an electoral alliance and we have not surrendered our politics to the BJP. So we will take into consideration the sentiment of the Muslims”.
The BJP leadership, however, has a different take on the matter. Calling AIADMK’s stand “politically dishonest”, the party leadership told The Quint, “We have taken a strong objection to their manifesto.”
'Submissive Partner' Surprises BJP
A senior Tamil Nadu BJP leader told The Quint, “The Dravidian party changed its stand over CAA. They did not consult us before promising this to the people. We cannot help them”.
The leader said, “AIADMK supported the CAA in the parliament. Now they want to get minority votes so they have backtracked. We are not in support of this”. The CAA is an important legislation from the BJP government and it cannot be repealed based on “whims of alliance partners”, the leader rued.
The national leadership of the BJP too has objected to the AIADMK’s promise, the leader said. “After the manifesto came out we have made it clear that we cannot support their stand,” he said. When asked about the strength of the alliance he added, “The BJP and AIADMK are in an electoral alliance. We respect the terms of the alliance but we cannot support the AIADMK in everything that they promise the voters”.
The AIADMK is the submissive partner in the alliance, a political observer close to the party told The Quint. “Since the beginning, AIADMK has been agreeing to BJP’s terms of the alliance including their demand for 25 seats in the state. The manifesto is trying to paint a bolder picture of the party,” he said. The BJP will contest in 20 Assembly seats in the state.
AIADMK’s association with the BJP has been widely criticised, even by staunch party supporters when it came to its support for National Education Policy, some of whom moved to TTV Dhinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK).
DMK leaders have also criticised AIADMK’s new stand on the CAA. “The AIADMK has been a slave to the BJP. First they supported the CAA in the Parliament. Then they supported the National Education Policy which prescribed public examinations in Class VII. In both the cases they have softened their stand because of public outrage,” said Saravanan Annadurai, spokesperson of the DMK.
BJP National Leadership Responds
Meanwhile, the BJP national leaders has downplayed AIADMK’s CAA promise. “Once they talk to us we will find out what they are thinking of. The correct interpretation of the CAA will set things right,” said Union Minister VK Singh.
A Tamil Nadu state leader of the BJP, however, said that the party unit in the state is not willing to discuss the matter with the AIADMK. “They have no voice in this matter,” he said. Meanwhile, AIADMK spokesperson Murugavel reiterated that the party “will consider the Muslim sentiment against CAA” even if the BJP is not happy with it.