From the deep South in the Temple town of Nagercoil, 625 km from Chennai, as the senior BJP leader and NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Mr. LK Advani launched his party’s Tamil Nadu campaign late this evening, it was the party’s ostensibly moderate “Vajpayee Mukha” that was more visible.
With a seemingly ubiquitous smiling portrait of the former NDA Prime Minister Vajpayee towering over others in the backdrop of the huge stage at the ‘Nagaraja Temple’ ground there in Kanniyakumari district, Mr. Advani kicked off BJP’s Lok Sabha poll campaign with lot more realism this time.
In total contrast to the high-profile ‘Bharat Yatra’ that flagged off his 2004 poll campaign with a huge caravan from the Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanniyakumari, the land’s end, Mr. Advani now chose its district headquarters of Nagercoil, sensing that a heady mix of Nationalism, spiritualism and patriotism does not directly translate into votes here.
“The campaign launch here is part of the Vijay Sankalp Yatra that Advanjiji had launched from Gujarat, taking oath for the victory of India through the victory of the BJP at the hustings,” said the saffron party’s Tamil Nadu General Secretary, Mr. H. Raja, to HT from Nagercoil where he was translating his leader’s speech at the rally into Tamil.
Even as Mr. Advani reaching Nagercoil was delayed by over three hours, thousands of BJP supporters waited patiently for their leader to arrive in a constituency where the BJP and Congress are placed in equal strength. In fact, after the delimitation, the new Lok Sabha constituency is now Kanniyakumari, which “is advantageous to us”, reasoned Mr. Raja. Mr. Advani first drove straight to the ‘Sri Vaikuntar’ Temple at Samithoppu in Nagercoil before reaching the poll meeting venue amid very tight security.
The BJP is playing solo in Tamil Nadu in the 2009 Parliamentary elections with no major party aligning with it so far. “But we are talking to some of the smaller parties and our strategy will be finalized at the State Election Committee Meeting in Chennai on March 12,” says Raja. This interestingly includes the actor-turned-politician Vijayakant’s DMDK too.
Though one would expect the ‘Ram-Sethu’ issue to be projected by the BJP in Tamil Nadu in appealing to ‘Hindu sentiments’, surprisingly the saffron party has decided to focus more on problems that “affect the Aam Admi”. “We will concentrate more on issues like price rise and of course tell the people that the DMK as part of the UPA Government at the Centre has done nothing to ameliorate the sufferings of Tamils in Sri Lanka,” said Raja.
The BJP leaders reasoning is that in a Lok Sabha election, as a National party, it is seen as the only alternative if people “do not want to vote for either of the major Dravidian parties (DMK and AIADMK-led alliances this time). “In that sense we have a good Prime Ministerial candidate in Advaniji,” affirmed the saffron leaders.
The saffron party is basically mulling two poll strategies in the State. If it manages to take on board a few smaller regional parties like actor-turned-politician Sarath Kumar’s outfit and the DMDK, the BJP may then go the whole hog to contest all the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu plus one in Puducherry.
Or else, the BJP will focus on 15 LS seats where it has put on a good show in the past including Kanniyakumari, Coimbatore, Tenkasi, South Chennai and Tiruchirappalli, and try to win some of them, sources said. Senior State BJP leaders including Mr. Ela Ganesan and former Union Minister, Mr. S. Thirunavukkarasar were among those who addressed the campaign launch. Mr. Advani will renew his Tamil Nadu poll campaign again towards the final phase, as the State goes to poll on May 13.