In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the question raised by the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) was: ‘Who is better-Gujarat’s Modi or Tamil Nadu’s Lady?’ But with the towering J. Jayalalithaa gone, the party’s current predicament is summed up in the words of what milk and dairy development minister K.T. Rajendra Balaji said at a rally: “Modi is our Daddy, India’s daddy. We accept his leadership.”
Political equations have changed in Tamil Nadu. Besides the BJP, the AIADMK has allied with a string of caste- and community-based parties to take on arch-rival DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). Both have woven alliances to woo various communities and converted the coming election into a clash of coalitions rather than a battle of the two Dravidian majors. The two have been forced to take an identical stance in their poll promises as they are unsure of their pull in the absence of their charismatic leaders. In fact, the two parties cross swords in only eight Lok Sabha seats and are contesting in 20 LS seats, leaving the other 20 to allies. The bypolls to 22 assembly seats matter more for them to establish their clout in the state. For this, they are banking on local issues rather than the Dravidian ideological concerns of strengthening federalism or opposing Hindi.
Although the DMK has moved away from its pan-Tamil moorings, of the two, it has still retained a greater fidelity to its Dravidian image in the eyes of the voters. The AIADMK, on the other hand, is perceived as a ‘soft Hindutva’ party. “The Dravidian social movement and ideological bases are the core factor for the survival of these parties,” says Prof. Ramu Manivannan of the University of Madras.