Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president of Tamil Nadu embarked on his much awaited six months long ‘EnMann En Makkal’ (my soil my people) padyatra from the holy land of Rameshwaram, the aspirations in the southern state is on the rise for the saffron party. The padyatra begins after thousands of party workers gather near the holy city of Rameshwaram following which the union home minister flags off the padyatra after offering prayers in the sacred Ramanathaswamy temple on July 28.
The large gathering before the commencement of the Padyatra suggests a slow and steady change unfolding in the favor of a party who has been desperate in its attempt to establish its hold in the southern part of the country for years. This ‘unprecedented development’ is nothing less than a distant dream coming true for the BJP under the charismatic leadership of K Annamalai who is slowly crafting a significant stake for the BJP in the so far invulnerable terrain of the land of Cholas.
There is no if and but that the party which bats for the nationalism and cultural preservation of the age old civilization of Bharat has been waiting for this opportunity in the state for decades, as despite of the saffron wave on which the party has been sitting comfortably in the majority in the Lok Sabha, the electoral outcome for the BJP in the Southern states including of in Tamil Nadu was not impressive at all.
However, change started taking place when the Narendra Modi led party appointed a former cadre of the Indian Police Services, K Annamalai at the helm of affairs of the saffron party in Tamil Nadu in 2021. Since his appointment the former IPS officer has been working tirelessly for establishing a base for the saffron party by uplifting the morale of the cadres and taking the incumbent Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government head on.
His efforts to establish the party as a major player in the politics of Tamil Nadu is evident from his crusade against the alleged corruption of DMK ministers and confronting the state government over the menace of illegal conversions in the state which so far has been a successful story by all means.
These combative efforts of Annamalai has resulted in establishing him as one of the prime voices of opposition against the DMK-Congress ruling alliance in the state. Another significant aspect of the rise of the Annamalai as a mass leader is that rather than indulging himself as a junior partner of any regional party which more or less depends on a more traditional politics of Dravidian ideology, the leader from Kusur is counting on the emergence of a wave of nationalist voters who take pride on the glorious culture language and history of Tamil in the national perspective.
Off late the BJP president while embarking on his padyatra thanked prime minister Narendra Modi and quoted ‘that our beloved PM is Tamilian by heart. He reinstated 1000 years of lost identity of Tamil in the past nine years. He has been vocal about the rich heritage of Tamil language. Because of his endeavor, Tirrukural has been translated into several world languages, no other PM has adhered to the Tamil language like him.’
The Saga of Sengol
The remarks made by Annamalai is nothing but a well calculated yet pious attempt to convince the voter by conveying the love and affection that the prime minister has been showing towards the state and its glorious history in his various speeches abroad and in India.
Another pivotal moment for the BJP to send a message in Tamil land arrived recently when the Modi led government decided to install the sacred Sengol in the newly built parliament building. It was an uninterrupted message from the government that it is seriously willing to give the due credit to the glorious cultural identity of the Tamils in Indian history.
The installation of the sacred Sengol is more of a symbolic as the Sengol being a symbol of righteousness, was received from the Adheenamas of the Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam (a Hindu mutt managed by the non-Brahmin priest) in Tamil Nadu on the eve of independence and is widely regarded pious in Tamil history, though despite of its significance, unfortunately it was never given its due credit by the respective congress government.
The incumbent central government on the other hand not only installed it in a place it deserved but the grand ceremony attended by the Adhhenamas during its installation also gave a symbolic message to the Southern state. There is no surprise that the party president Annamalai is carrying the same baton of glorious Tamil identity and its contribution in Indian history further through his speeches and in political gatherings.
Core issues and the urge for alternative politics
After his crusade against the alleged corruption of the incumbent DMK government and hailing the rich heritage of Tamilian identity which has been a lost cause in the modern history of India, the BJP president has been carefully building an alternative against the traditional Dravidian concept which has been the focal point of each and every voting exercise in the Tamilian land for years.
Though apart from taking the DMK government head on and batting for the rich heritage of Tamils, the third strategic shift for the BJP in the state has came hours before the commencement of the Padyatra, when the home minister Amit Shah while flagging off the yatra said that ‘I want to remind you that the massacre of the Tamil took place in Sri Lanka during the Congress led regime of United Progressive Alliance (UPA).’ The home minister’s remarks were directed towards the strategic path chosen by the then congress government during the Sri Lankan civil war where hundred thousands of Sri Lankan Tamilians were allegedly massacred for their alleged links with the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE) led by Prabhakaran in the final phase of the war.
Those who were aware about the Tamilian sentiments towards the alleged ethnic cleansing during the civil war knows that the role of the respective Indian government’s right from the beginning of the insurgency in Sri Lanka in the late 80s was turned out to be a implicit one in the long run and despite of their efforts towards keeping the island nation stable, they did choose to make blunders like ‘Operation Pawan’ which ultimately led the LTTE to strike back and assassinate the then Indian prime minister in a political gathering.
The assassination of the then prime minister encouraged the already hostile Indian government to side with the Sri Lankan government which ultimately led them to fail measurably in achieving their long term goals. Their biggest failure in handling the issue occurred when the then UPA government in the wake of protecting their alleged strategic interest failed to intervene effectively during the Hindu minority refugee crisis occurred out of the all out war imposed by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil insurgents in the year 2009.
The humanitarian crisis which ultimately resulted in the deaths of thousands of Tamilians during the gruesome war crimes allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces has been a emotive issue in the state politics since 2009, as irrespective of their political alliance in the center the regional parties have always choose to vocal about the stand of Indian government in the favor of Tamil cause. For the BJP, being in the opposition at the center at the time of the crisis was turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the party despite of their strategic interest even after voted to the power in 2014 has been vocal about the ill treatment of the Hindu refugees and the failure of the UPA government to pressurize the then Sri Lankan government against the atrocities on the Tamil civilians of the island nation.
In all, there is no doubt that the BJP under the leadership of Annamalai is investing heavily on the core issues of Corruption, the Revival of Tamilian culture under the larger banner of Nationalism and the mistakes made by the UPA during the Sri Lankan civil war to make a solid ground for the party in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. In their pursuit, they have found a hardworking, charismatic leader and a fiery orator in Annamalai, with a first hand experience of administration as well.
Having said that, it is also evident that as far as the electoral aspect is concerned the current DMK-congress alliance is still formidable in the state and it will be a huge task for the Annamalai led party to even secure a double digit vote share in the upcoming Lok Sabha election scheduled to be held in 2024. Though, it will definitely not be an exaggeration to say that the saffron party has finally found its man for the mammoth task of establishing the BJP in the Tamil land and in the long run if Annamalai, continued to rally the support from the central leadership as he possesses now then he could rightly be the one who would change the fate of the party in the land of the Cholas.