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Is Annamalai the BJP's game-changer in Tamil Nadu, dominated by Dravidian Politics?
Photo courtesy:/Annamalai Facebook

Is Annamalai the BJP's game-changer in Tamil Nadu, dominated by Dravidian Politics?

India Blooms News Service | | 15 Apr 2024, 04:40 pm

Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu): The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to go solo in this Lok Sabha election in Tamil Nadu, ditching its alliance with the AIADMK in the Dravidian-party-dominated southern state.

Former IPS officer K Annamalai is leading the charge for the party in the state where its performance has been dismal so far.

The 39-year-old IIM, Lucknow graduate feels that the people of Tamil Nadu should look beyond politics rooted in Dravidian pride and vote for development.

Under Annamalai’s leadership, the party has decided to contest for 23 seats without any alliance support, marking a big shift from its past strategies which saw the party mainly in a supporting role for the Dravidian parties - DMK and AIADMK.

BJP feels it is ready to disrupt the existing political equation in Tamil Nadu and attract voters on its own merit.

K Annamalai has breathed confidence in the BJP as he surpassed senior leaders to become the state party chief. According to Indian Express, Tamil Nadu has been observing the confidence BJP’s central leadership has shown in him, allowing him freehand in adopting strategies. There have been no signs of pulling the reins even as his unrestrained criticisms of AIADMK split the alliance.

According to Annamalai, Tamil Nadu is going to be the face of the BJP’s emergence in the South in the coming elections, the report said.

“What we are going to witness is a revolt against the conventional political classes. It’s not just a consolidation (behind the BJP), but a revolt by certain communities and backward classes against traditional Dravidian parties and zero development,” he told the Indian Express while campaigning in Coimbatore on Thursday.

Coimbatore is predominantly an urban and semi-urban constituency characterised by a middle-class population. It boasts of a significant voter base aligned with the AIADMK and DMK parties, while also exhibiting a noticeable presence of the BJP.

According to the Indian Express report, Annamalai’s popularity is palpable as people gather spontaneously to meet him, sometimes waiting over four hours.

BJP has been working on building ground for its existence for quite some time but it was lacking a charismatic local face, who could stand out as a leader people would want to embrace.

“It’s something special as these are not organised party crowds… They’re going to vote for us because the BJP has captured their imagination,” he told Indian Express.

Photo courtesy: / Annamalai FacebookPhoto courtesy: / Annamalai Facebook

As he campaigned in a white shirt inscribed with the slogan "En Mann, En Makkal" (My Land, My People) and a dhoti, people showered garlands on him, group of boys and girls sought his autograph, some people wanted selfies with him while some others brought their children to get his blessings.

Annamalai captured the crowd’s attention from a vehicle befitting his status as a rising star. The motorised platform installed in the vehicle elevates him to the roof, allowing him to greet the throngs of people surrounding his convoy.

Their enthusiasm slowed the procession to a crawl as he extended his greetings to those gathered around, the report said.

Photo courtesy: / Annamalai FacebookPhoto courtesy: / Annamalai Facebook

Annamalai told Indian Express that AIADMK will eventually lose significance in the state as it does not have leaders who inspire people.

“…the AIADMK’s collapse is evident, and we are filling up the vacuum… And I am attacking the AIADMK leadership, not the cadres… When a party doesn’t have leaders who inspire, they can’t take their voters for granted. The AIADMK has a corrupt, self-serving leadership, which is community oriented… Remember that I have never criticised MGR,” he said.

Photo courtesy: / Annamalai FacebookPhoto courtesy: / Annamalai Facebook

He said people are looking at the BJP due to “the stark contrast between actual development and the empty rhetoric of Dravidian development models” in these parts, according to the report.

He predicted that the BJP will get seats “in double digits” and not just Coimbatore, while the Tirunelveli district will emerge as a stronghold for the party, including the region of Tenkasi. "On June 4 you will see increased numbers, increased vote share and conversion to seats," he claimed.

As he sought people’s vote to “make Coimbatore no.1 city in India,” Annamalai said, “There is a neo middle-class, and a lot of economic classes – this election is going to be about their emergence. Their children are aspirational, they want better education, opportunities, and cities.”

While the BJP has worked on a social engineering plan since 2014 to consolidate the Hindu votes in the state, Annamalai said the minorities, including Muslims, should vote for him for the same reason the Hindus would vote. “…because I am the best candidate to create a fair city for their children in the next five years. So, I don’t differentiate between religions. Neither should they,” he told Indian Express.

Previous Lok Sabha Elections

In previous Lok Sabha elections in the state, the BJP struggled to make an impact. In 2014, the BJP and its ally, the PMK, secured only one seat each, while the AIADMK, led by J Jayalalithaa, claimed victory in 37 seats.

In 2019, the BJP was unable to retain the seat it had won in Kanyakumari. The election also marked a downturn in the AIADMK's political fortunes, with the party managing to secure only the Theni seat under the leadership of Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam, who was later expelled from the party.

The DMK performed strongly, winning 24 seats independently, while its allies collectively won 14 seats, resulting in a total of 38 out of 39 seats in the state.

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