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Jayalalithaa keeps everyone guessing

By Krishnakumar P in Chennai
May 15, 2009 13:58 IST
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Most of the action in Tamil Nadu on Friday, a day before the Lok Sabha election results are out, is focussed on the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its mercurial chief Jayalalithaa.

The story so far

On Friday morning a representative from the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, a new partner in the National Democratic Alliance, spoke to leaders from the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Pattali Makkal Katchi, both AIADMK allies, in a bid to secure their support for the NDA.

With a junior NDA ally speaking to the junior allies in Tamil Nadu, the Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to set up a direct communication channel with Jayalalithaa. Apart from Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani who will try to get in touch with the AIADMK chief over the phone, it is said the BJP will send a senior representative, from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, to Chennai later in the day to meet Jayalalitha in person.

Jayalalitha is no stranger to the NDA -- in 1998, when the BJP-led alliance assumed power, it was in league with her. However, things soured soon after, and in 1999 she withdrew support to the A B Vajpayee government, bringing it down. In the 1999 election her arch-rival, the DMK, backed the BJP. And in a turnaround, for the 2004 election the DMK went with the Congress and she was in the NDA camp.

On Friday morning, leaders of the Communist Party of India, which painstakingly cobbled the Third Front, got in touch with Jayalalithaa to speak about the May 18 Third Front meeting in New Delhi, Jayalalithaa is understood to have assured them that she will be present. But sources say she will take a final decision on this only after the results are out.

Which way will she go?

NDA: If the AIADMK wins a sizeable number and its allies like the PMK and MDMK also fare well, the NDA looks like the most probable place where the AIADMK-led alliance. There is only one hitch in this. Going with the NDA will mean Jayalalithaa will have nothing to gain in at the state-level.

The DMK government is propped up by outside support from the Congress and Jayalaithaa wants to see its back as soon as possible. In fact, towards the end of campaigning, PMK leader Dr S Ramdoss in his public rallies openly asked the people to be ready for another poll in six months.

Dislodging the DMK government will be impossible if the AIADMK backs the NDA.

UPA: If Jayalalithaa places the DMK government's dismissal as her top priority, then the only way it can be done is if the Congress withdraws support. The pound of flesh that the Congress will ask is support at the Centre.

Though Jayalalithaa, who has not stated who she will support, will not be averse to supporting the UPA (and the opportunistic PMK will gladly come back into the UPA fold anytime), the one big hurdle in this arrangement will be the MDMK, a party whose biggest election plank this time was Tamil Eelam.

"Our leader has time and again said he will explore any option that does not have the Congress in it. There is no change in that stand," MDMK spokesperson Nanmaran said. So, for Jayalalithaa to go with the UPA, she would either have to convince the MDMK on a very emotive issue, or dump the party altogether.

Another key point is that even if Jayalalithaa supports the UPA and the Congress withdraws support to the Tamil Nadu government, the DMK might just survive with the help of Independents and small parties.

Third Front: Like it happened during the trust vote, a front that the Left parties pieced together with a lot of effort is coming apart at the last minute. Though the AIADMK is a member of the front, the Left leaders are clueless about whether she will attend the May 18 meeting. Even AIADMK leaders say a decision will be taken only after the results.

The two factors that will then decide whether she stays with the front are whether it has the numbers to form a government at the Centre and what kind of incentive will such a set up have for Jayalalithaa.

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Krishnakumar P in Chennai