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BJP in a spree of 'acquisitions and mergers'
Legislators of Tamil Nadu mostly belong to four caste groups: Gounders, Nadars, Thevars, Vanniars and Dalits. In recent decades these caste groups have gained immense clout by their success in business and politics. The domination of the forward castes – the Brahmins, the Mudaliars and the Chettiars – ended years ago as these form a minuscule minority of the state’s total population. Now BJP's Amit Shah seems to focus on the caste arithmetic of the state.

For over a year now, Tamil Nadu’s administration appears rudderless. After her decisive victory in the 2016 assembly elections, there were hopes on the AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa focusing on many of the issues in crying need of attention. Her indifferent health, prolonged hospitalisation and death left the party and the government in disarray. The ascent of Sasikala and her family and their hurry to usurp power received a severe jolt when the Supreme Court judgment resulted in jailing her along with two of her family members who were co-accused with Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case. 

Demand for dismissal of the EPS government

The turmoil continued with the breakup of the party into the Edappadi K Palaniswami, O Panneerselvam and TTV Dinakaran groups. The bitter war waged in the media, before the Governor, and in the courts, has further paralyzed the administration. This situation is ideal for political parties in opposition, most notably the DMK that ruled Tamil Nadu for 21 years, to fish in the troubled waters. The DMK, which narrowly missed capturing power in 2016, is understandably keen to recapture power. DMK’s Working President M K Stalin has been fighting on several fronts, networking with other political parties at the state and Central level and taking any and every issue to the streets and the courts. 

Initially, the  Sasikala - Dinakaran faction was sidelined and subsequently thrown out of office at the 12 September meeting of the EPS-OPS faction. Reportedly cash-rich Dinakaran is confident of spending his way to power. So he may join hands with the DMK to pull down the KPS government and demand fresh elections.

With poor base in the state, the BJP is understandably keen to expand this. It has just one representative, Pon Radhakrishnan, as  Minister of Shipping and Highways and Finance in the Central cabinet and nil in the state assembly. The party has not been able to command big following nor has a strong organizational structure to reach out to the masses. Poor representation in the parliament and the state legislature also mean little resources for constituency development and garnering popular votes.

 

Amit Shah's caste calculus

BJP Party President Amit Shah is addressing this issue. Recognising the profound caste orientation of the state, the BJP is strategising its focus on this factor. Broadly, legislators of the state are dominated by five caste groups with the sizeable following:  Gounders, Nadars, Thevars, Vanniars and Dalits. Of these, the first three caste groups are part of the nouveau riche.  In recent decades these caste groups have gained immense clout by their success in business and politics. The domination of the forward castes – the Brahmins, the Mudaliars, and the Chettiars – ended years ago as these form a minuscule minority of the state’s total population.

The BJP, therefore, focuses on these vote banks. Look at the developments in recent months: 

•BJP inducted as a member an ex-minister of 

AIADMK government, Nainar Nagendran,  a prominent leader of the Thevar community that has been dominating Tamil Nadu politics.

•The Kongu Jananayaka Katchi led by G K Nagaraj, a leader of Gounders with following in western Tamil Nadu, merged with the BJP.

•The Nadar caste already has good representation in the BJP: Dr. Thamizhisai Soundararajan is the leader of the party in TN, and Pon Radhakrishnan is the single Union minister from the state. 

•The Dalits are wooed by winning over the Puthiya Tamilagam party headed by Dr. K Krishnaswamy, who is increasingly supportive of the BJP.

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