Now that S Jaishankar is the External Affairs minister, the BJP has to find a Rajya Sabha seat for the diplomat-turned-minister as well. Given that no Lok Sabha (NDA has only one MP from Tamil Nadu) and Rajya Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu made it to the Narendra Modi ministry, the BJP would prefer to send Jaishankar to Parliament from his home state. Except that it will have to depend on the AIADMK to comply with its wish. Or you could say command, if you please.
Six seats are coming up for election from Tamil Nadu in July. Though four AIADMK MPs are retiring, the ruling party with its reduced strength in the state assembly can send only three this time. The problem is that in the run-up to the elections where the NDA alliance was taking shape, the AIADMK promised one Rajya Sabha seat to the PMK. Which means it is left with only two Rajya Sabha seats for itself. Leaving one for Jaishankar would mean further crippling its own strength in the Upper House.
Doing so comes with the risk of inviting barbs from the DMK that the BJP calls the shots in the AIADMK. The flip side is that having the country’s foreign minister represent Tamil Nadu in the Rajya Sabha will also be a matter of pride.
Edappadi Palaniswami would be more than happy with Jaishankar representing Tamil Nadu as it could jettison the hopes of deputy CM, O Panneerselvam’s son, P Raveendranath (the lone NDA MP from Theni) to make it to the central government. Since EPS and OPS reportedly could not agree on the name of the AIADMK MP who would become a minister, Narendra Modi dropped the party from the list sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Since the BJP is a more important partner for the AIADMK leadership, it may concede the seat if Delhi can convince PMK to let go its promised seat.
If Tamil Nadu does not materialise, Plan B could be look at Gujarat where the BJP will have no problem to accommodate Jaishankar. Two Rajya Sabha MPs – Amit Shah and Smriti Irani – have been elected to the Lok Sabha and will relinquish the membership of the House of Elders.