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Thursday’s 2G verdict is bad news for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as it prepares for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It not only weakens its anti-corruption plank against the second term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, but also strengthens the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), currently an ally of the Congress. The BJP and the Narendra Modi-led central government, during its three-and-a-half years of rule, have continued to use the 2G scam as the centerpiece of their corruption plank against the UPA government’s second term in office. After the verdict that acquitted former telecom minister A Raja and DMK Rajya Sabha MP M Kanimozhi, the spectre of 2G as a symbol of Congress and DMK corruption would lose its lustre. Already, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has accused the PM of not answering allegations on the irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal, and in the business dealings of BJP chief Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah. He has also taken to saying that Modi has stopped using the word ‘corruption’ in his speeches. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, such was the sweep of the Narendra Modi wave that the BJP surprised itself by winning a seat in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari. Of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) had won 37, and BJP ally Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) bagged one. The DMK, a Congress ally, scored a biz zero.
This not only weakened the DMK, but also the Congress. While the BJP got a majority in the Lok Sabha, it helped that not just the Congress, but its allies like the DMK didn’t have numbers in the House, while the AIADMK in the Rajya Sabha rescued BJP at crucial junctures. However, with J Jayalalithaa having passed away, AIADMK’s infighting and the word on the streets of Chennai that the BJP is running the government and the party sitting in Delhi, the portends are that of a DMK sweep in 2019. It isn’t that the DMK would be averse to joining a minority BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. The DMK was an ally in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance government in New Delhi, but it has given no indication of ditching the Congress. However, it has also kept its relations with the PM and BJP at an even keel. DMK Rajya Sabha member Tiruchi Siva welcomed the judgment. “It portends well for a good performance of the DMK in the 2019 Lok Sabha,” he said. The BJP, said Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien, should say goodbye to the 39 Lok Sabha seats of Tamil Nadu and 42 seats of West Bengal. “In 2019, the BJP would need to win its seats not from 543, but 462 (minus Tamil Nadu’s 39 and Bengal’s 42),” O’Brien said. In Tamil Nadu, the Modi magic is unlikely to work against DMK’s M K Stalin and in West Bengal the PM’s appeal cannot match that of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Any silver lining, if at all for the BJP, is that both parties were part of the Vajpayee-led NDA government at the Centre. Interesting times await us.